Seniors Speak: A How To: Documenting Time Well Spent 

Designed by Vaish Tetali ('20)

One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Shruti Shakthivel (USC ’24), who lived in 1506D during her senior year. She was actively involved in entrepreneurship, research, and was a co-president of ISP.

I have a vivid memory of sitting outside on the slabs during move-in weekend my sophomore year. The sun was high and bright, and a few upperclassmen came to sit with my new friends and me. As we talked, they regularly made comments about having hazy memories. The seniors couldn’t remember their junior or sophomore year, and the juniors couldn’t remember much of their sophomore year. It was a painful blur.

A year later, when the seniors returned for culture shows and school events, they would recollect their memories, such as their senior clash, prom, luau, senior sunrise, and graduation. They told me to look forward to the memories I would make in the final months of senior year. They told me that they threw out the bad memories, or maybe locked them away, and the ones they left with were those final, heartwarming memories that allowed them to cherish IMSA. They said that those were going to be the times that made IMSA worth it. 

When the upperclassmen first told me about this my sophomore year, I remember feeling frustrated. I didn’t want to forget anything — I wanted to remember the bad that came with the good. I wanted to prove to myself (and to IMSA) that the eventual 2.5 years of suffering I would experience and resentment I would build against IMSA couldn’t be replaced with a few months of happy memories. I was determined to remember it all. 

I’ve been a collector of memories for a while, as we all are in our own ways. I’ve tried many tools and, in doing so, I’ve found some that work for me and that I enjoy. I hope they work for you too. You don’t have to do all of these, but I hope to be a reminder for you to keep making memories and even go out of your way to do so. You can use these methods together, separately, or a few at a time. 


Tools For Collecting Memories:

  • Spotify
    • I’ve always had trouble creating playlists based on moods or vibes the way most of my friends do, so I started to create playlists by months. Usually by the end of the month the songs I’ve listened to have grown old. I enjoy returning to past playlists because they end up having a common mood or emotion associated with that point in time. 
    • If you want to follow my Spotify, my username is shrutishak. 
  • Finsta (“Fake Instagram”)
    • I have a second private Instagram account that I use as a personal photo diary. I can write out the feelings and thoughts that I want to share. Usually after major events such as culture shows, intersession, winter break, summer camps, or clash of the halls, I’ll make a post dedicated to that time and my feelings towards them. I use the story and highlight tools on Instagram to make smaller diaries of specific times. For example, I have story highlights dedicated to senior and junior year moments.
  • Journaling
    • This is a more difficult task than most. It’s hard to want to journal when you feel good because and only use it when you feel like you need to sort through sad emotions. Initially, I wrote a lot, but I couldn’t keep up with the time it took to do so. After years of failed attempts, I created a system that works for me and hopefully for you too. Plus, it only takes 5 minutes! 
      • 1. G: (What was something good today?)
      • 2. B: (What was something bad today?)
      • 3. G: (What am I grateful for?)
      • 4. W: (Did I workout? Yes or No)
      • 5. R: (Did I read? Yes or No)
      • 6: F: B, L, D (What did I eat, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner?)
    • In my journal, I use 7 lines: the date plus the 6 prompts. Prompts 1-3 are useful to reflect upon the day without committing to lots of writing. Prompts 4-6 are (customizable) self-development trackers I use to keep myself accountable for my goals. I find the third prompt the most important because it has helped me develop a strong sense of gratitude, uplifting me when I felt down. 
  • Google Drive
    • Sometimes I have a lot to say, but I don’t want to write it down in my journal. This is when I turn to just typing it up because it’s faster and less straining. I have a google folder and each of the documents are labeled and organized into three sections: Feelings, Journaling, Dreams. Again, these are options so you can customize them to your needs. 
  • Vlogging, Pictures, Polaroid/Film Photos
    • If you know me, you know vlogging is my favorite way to capture memories. 
  • Google Calendar 
    • I use this for time-management purposes but I included it because I enjoy looking back and seeing what I was up to. I find it interesting to see how I spent my time, what my goals were, and how my priorities changed over time. 


My best advice for adopting these methods and staying motivated is to create systems. Like clockwork, at the start of every month, I create a new Spotify playlist. In my to-do lists each day, I write down “journal” so I make it a task to complete. When I’m out with my friends, I make it a point to take at least one picture or one video, even if it’s just before I leave. At the end of culture shows and other big events, I put aside time that night (or the next) to write a post. In creating systems, over time the process becomes ingrained into daily life. 


Why is this important? 

Beyond simply collecting memories, I’ve found utilizing these tools are beneficial for measuring time, growth, and change. 

In high school, especially IMSA, we are all obsessed with measuring how we use our time. How efficient are we? Are we good at time management? I have fallen into this pit of wanting to maximize my time, and while I respect the grind, I also have learned to measure my time in moments as opposed to minutes (yes, this is cliché). How good your IMSA experience was can’t be quantified in grades, leadership positions, or accolades. Your IMSA experiences will be important to you because of your friends and the memories you make with them. Like most people, I came for the academics but stayed for the people. I can assure you the right friends will make any amount of time you spend with them worth it. 

I’ve heard both sides. The first being, “wow, I’ve changed so much,” and the second being, “wow, I haven’t changed at all.” My hope in sharing these methods of collecting memories is so they can help serve as a tool for you to measure your growth whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. I believe the songs we listen to reflect our emotional states at certain times. My playlists allow me to remember my feelings and realize how much I’ve changed. Through journaling, I can measure how my values, goals, and health has changed. After three years, I can assure you, you will not be the same person you were when you first walked into IMSA. Over the next three, you will continue to evolve. 


The Final Goodbye 

For my fellow classmates and I, after pushing through late nights and (for many) all-nighters, getting through classes slightly awake, working until we passed out, and then finding out that we would not have the sweet SSS we worked towards, it was easy to feel like none of it was worth it. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my classmates and I will never experience the memories I was told were going to be our most vivid, memorable moments, the ones that would give us a strong bond to IMSA. Not having those months made me realize the importance of making and savoring moments leading up to SSS. No one can promise you time, so take advantage of what you have now. Maybe by graduation you’ll remember that one test or final, but in 10 years, with the help of old photos and journal entries, you can be transported back to remember the best moments you had, how you felt, and who you spent them with. 

As a final word to the rising juniors and seniors, please savor every moment. Enjoy sitting in Sodexo, the IRC, or the loft with your friends. Enjoy the late nights in your friends’ company instead of worrying about that essay I know you will finish. To my class of 2020 seniors, we didn’t get the coveted moments we dreamed of, so I hope college will be extra sweet and that we will remember to capture more moments and make the most of each one. 


About the Author

Jodie Meng
Jodie was a three-year resident in 1506B who served as the Co-Editor-In-Chief along with Eva Tuecke for the 2019-2020 school year! Outside of The Acronym, she was active in LEAD, SIR, and other extracurriculars. She will be attending Stanford University for her undergraduate education.

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