An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Jenny L. '21

Dear 9th Grade Jenny,   

I just finished reading your letter from the 9th grade retreat, and a strange pang of emotion washes over me. How can I put into words an experience so revolutionary and so full of growth that I simply can’t imagine who or where I’d be now without it? I know this transition into high school is a daunting one, but it truly will be a transformative four years (you're going to be okay!). Here are some snippets of what’s to come:  

The big and small moments in community. You’re going to experience moments that fill your heart in such expansive ways. Laughing collective belly laughs because a classmate flips a coin in the middle of a true-false quiz, tearing up during a friend's "This I Believe" speech, uncontrollably sobbing on the last day of class because of the bond your English family has created. Finding light during dark Seattle downpours by huddling together under your tiny umbrella between classes, dancing with friends in an empty classroom to celebrate turning in the Transcendentalism Project, cheering together in Allen-Gates 201 because your calculus teacher just said the phrase “big brain.”

The conversations with mentors. You're going to meet the life-changing mentors you've longed for and needed for so long; their offices will become a home, their wisdom and empathy a source of nourishment. They will help you learn to honor yourself, help you rediscover the joy of learning, help you learn to find purpose in whatever you do, because you can't fully understand the "how" and "where" and "when" and "with who" without also beginning to ask "why."

The growth and self-discovery. You're going to discover that the humanities make your heart bloom, even if you’ve always believed it to be a field that does not hold space for you. You're going to learn to make space for yourself, etch your stories into existence, especially if they're not of the mainstream voice. You're going to begin your journey of community-searching and community-building, of recognizing your political identity as a proud Korean American. And that one English elective you currently swear you’ll never, ever take? You’re going to write long, heartfelt paragraphs on your senior course change request form explaining why you ache for its last open spot.

The love and care. You're going to learn to hold so much love and care in your body, both for yourself and others. You’re going to become the girl who smiles “hi” at faces both familiar and unfamiliar around campus. You're going to ask for an extension when you really need one, receive a failing grade on a quiz but still give yourself a pat on the back, take naps in the silent reading room during long block frees (friends commenting on pillow marks on your cheek is the quintessential experience). You're finally going to learn to understand yourself as a human with a human body who needs sleep and water and good food and healthy relationships and loving friends, a body magnificent not because of her academic achievements or resumé but rather because of the ways she loves, cares, listens, empathizes, makes mistakes, tries, fails, and perseveres. 

There will be all-nighters writing research papers, breakdowns in Bliss bathrooms, lots of angsty K-Pop and "Glee" playlists on repeat. There will be heartbreak, grief, broken trust, and so much longing for the things that feel like mere fantasies. But with these trials will also come a lot of joy, a lot of movement, a lot of fire.

So be generous with yourself. Sometimes loyalty doesn’t mean holding onto those who’ve harmed you but rather holding onto yourself and your values amidst it all. Genuineness over superficiality, communities over cliques, always. Hold space for contradictions, complexities, and multiple truths. Think big picture. Ask for help. Take accountability when you cause harm. Advocate for yourself and the people you love; take risks. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. I'm so, so proud of you.

The warmest hug,

Senior You