Alison Razafimandimby’s senior reflection

“What are your plans after graduation?” Hearing that question is like having the teacher call out your name when you don’t know the answer. My hands become slippery, my heart sinks down to my stomach and my mind goes blank. I thought that by the end of senior year I would have it all figured out but here I am, a month away from the last day of school with no clear plan of what I’m doing next fall. While everyone else is following a familiar path, I have chosen to take a gap year. It’s not unheard of but it’s not as common either.

I remember making this decision winter of my junior year. Honestly, I just didn’t want to take the SATs. Do I feel a little stupid knowing that it’s optional? Maybe, but I’ve realized that the idea of going to college is something that I am not ready for and that’s completely okay.

I understand that there’s nothing that will prepare me for college but I’ve spent 18 years trapped in this Bethesda bubble. I dedicated my time to tennis and academics thinking that it would feel rewarding but all it’s ever done was suffocate me. It took me six years of digging myself into this hole of denial to finally acknowledge that playing a sport for college is not what I want. It’s what others wanted for me.

That moment of clarity was the most relieved I’ve ever been. Besides due dates and deadlines, I don’t believe in the idea of “too late”. I thought that I would regret changing my plans for the future at the last minute but if there’s anything I regret, it would be the decision to lie to myself for the past six years.

The last thing I want is to be acknowledged as “wasted talent.” I know what it’s like to work so hard for so long and feel like you’re throwing it all away. But I also know what it’s like to drag yourself around just to make others proud of you. I was always seeking validation from other people without even considering what I thought of myself. All this time, I felt this emptiness inside of me that could never be filled and I never knew why.

The truth is, you should never be afraid to explore what you’re passionate about. If it’s more than one thing, so be it. If there ever comes a time where you feel like you have to make a sacrifice, think about what makes you the happiest. Not the most “practical” option. With enough passion and curiosity, success will find its way to you.