Surviving Hell and Back

by Jena Le ’23

For many of you, junior year may have been unbearable; but for me, it was absolute hell.
When I first entered high school, I was an energetic bright eyed freshman whose sole focus was to use my next four years to earn a spot at a top university like my older siblings. So, I relentlessly tried to excel in classes. I volunteered, interned, played sports, and indulged in hobbies such as balloon art to cultivate the most unique application possible. Every “A” I got, every balloon animal I twisted, and every volunteer hour I earned propelled me higher and higher.

Then, one mistake sent me crashing down, all the way to the depths of hell.
Everything I ever worked for, everything I cared about was lost. Disappointment suffocated me. The hope my parents placed in me felt heavier than ever before, as the shame I brought to them fully settled in. The thought of my teachers’ and friends’ reactions filled me with overwhelming dread. Once I returned to school, I feigned a brave face, but inside, I felt damned, with no chance of escape. Some sins aren’t easily forgiven, especially to college admissions. Knowing that, SAT preparation and college visits seemed utterly pointless.

It took lots of time, and support from my family, friends and few wonderful teachers and counselors (you know who you are) to pick myself up. Interning that summer at a staffing agency and helping to place people in jobs allowed me to gain my wings again. I began to see that all the my efforts in the past wasn’t for college, it was for me. Learning is to make me smarter. Volunteering allowed me a way to connect and contribute to my community. Creating balloon art for spirit week or newspaper distribution day was to spread joy to those around me.
When I clicked the “submit” button for my dream school in November, I allowed myself to feel little pinpricks of hope, a feeling I hadn’t felt in ages. After all, just a few months prior, I didn’t even have the courage to try.

In Mid-December, the world seemed to move in slow motion while I waited for THE announcement. I tried to hold back my tears as euphoria washed over me; my spirit was lifted to unparalleled heights as I read “Congratulations!” The air suddenly tasted sweeter and the world seemed more vibrant than ever before. When I finally settled down, I thought, “I’m back.”