Senior Reflection: How the heck can you expect the unexpected?

Maggie Del Re, Editor-in-Chief

If you asked me, “what will your life be like when you graduate high school?” four years ago, my answer would have been wildly different than the reality that I’m living today.

I was going to get perfect grades (forget that I can’t do math), make tons of new friends (nevermind that I’m generally quiet and shy) and attend a university far away from sleepy Northborough, where I could experience a new place for the first time.

Here I am four years later, about to graduate high school and attend a small liberal arts university no more than 40 minutes away from the place I grew up in, with a handful of new friends by my side and a less than perfect GPA to boast of.

Many of the triumphs I had hoped for were put on hold due to unforeseen tragedies; that’s typical. We all face adversities in some way or another. Then we learn to overcome them.

But, at least in my experience, right when you think that you feel better, something finds a way to knock you back down. Maybe it’s “just” a bad test grade, or maybe it’s something as earth-shattering as the loss of the loved one. Maybe it’s not something that really even affects you at all: you hear of someone else’s misfortune down the street, or across country or on the opposite side of our earth, and you’re left to wonder why the world is so cold and how you could ever recover on a planet so heart-wrenchingly cruel.

No matter what causes your grief, there’s no denying that it sucks. We’re dealt a hand we don’t expect and we have to learn to cope with it. Sometimes we can continue our lives like these unpleasant things never happened and that they didn’t change us, and we can be perfectly well adjusted people living like that. To me that’s not strength — that’s survival.

But if there’s one thing I remember and cherish from physics class (and it’s very possible that there’s only one thing I remember and cherish from physics class), it’s Newton’s Third Law: every action comes with an equal and opposite reaction.

For each unpleasant shock we encounter, there’s an equally thrilling and joyful surprise. For all my embarrassing moments, like the innumerable times I’ve stumbled and stuttered when a math teacher called on me unexpectedly, there is a kind stranger (probably an underclassman since I’m usually in the same math classes as them) to smile sympathetically and tell me that it’s okay. When I was rejected from my mom’s alma matter and thought that it was possible she might never love me again, she surprised me with a shrug and a rant about why she now actually hates USC and how I’m too good for them because they’re going downhill anyway (sure, Mom).

For larger tragedies that seem insurmountable, such as the loss of my father, the support from friends and family made carrying on strangely do-able. My favorite surprising companion showed herself when my house unexpectedly caught on fire in November; my rather ditzy dog Nugget became a hero and therapy pet, following me out of the house without question, and calmly sitting by my side while I called 911. Man, I love dogs.

My point is that, for better or for worse, things don’t always go as we plan. But next time you find yourself in an unexpected situation, I urge you to hold your head high and realize the opportunity you’ve been gifted: to learn something, to make a new friend, to strengthen your current relationships or even just to be humbled. Because inevitably in life bad things do happen and they should change us.

Maybe my experience is different than yours, but I certainly didn’t get what I expected out of high school, and I’m sure I’m not going to get what I expect out of college either.

Rather than trying to anticipate the unexpected, I’m trying to erase my expectations entirely and just enjoy the hand I’m dealt, whatever that may be. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.