With all of the uncertainty surrounding high school and what comes after, especially in the midst of a pandemic, students must find different ways to cope with their anxieties about the future.

For some, this means finding activities that take their minds off of their troubles, providing a much needed break. On the other hand, some choose to keep busy, tackling the uncertainties in their lives from as many angles as possible. To find out how our high school students cope with uncertainty, the Eagle Eye reached out to several students to hear about their strategies.

Kisa Tamai, Senior

Tamai cast a wide net when applying for colleges. Photograph by Connor Malinger (’22).

Thorough. That is the one word that best describes Kisa Tamai…and organized… or maybe hard working. With college decisions looming in the next few months, Tamai is constantly reminded that much of her future is uncertain. While some choose to escape from work, Tamai copes by keeping busy, creating numerous to-do lists and calendar systems on paper, participating in leadership roles in many extracurricular activities, researching potential career paths and colleges, and applying to over thirty colleges and universities. Her primary motivation centers around her family. “I am grateful to be given the opportunity of attending college, so I want to give back to my parents by making it as affordable as possible for them.” As Tamai’s prospective college list grew, she had to figure out how to pay for the application fees. “I sought fee waivers and purposely chose schools with no application fees.” On top of that, Tamai worked two jobs and directed every paycheck to her college savings. She admits feeling like there is still more she can do to lower her college costs. “Even though I received generous [financial] offers from several schools, I don’t want to stop there, [so] I [continue to] apply for as many scholarships as possible,” she said. Tamai recognizes that her efforts do not make all the uncertainties go away but takes comfort in her belief that hard work will bring her closer to her goals.

Cameron Pien, Junior

Pien enjoys the freedom of expression that dance provides her. Photograph by Connor Malinger (’22).

Cameron Pien finds her peace in trusting God’s plan for her life. While it may not seem like she has much to be anxious about when it comes to her academic future—she took AP Biology in freshman year, then AP English 11 and AP Chemistry as a sophomore, and currently AP English 12 and AP World History as a junior—Pien shares that her worries have started to pile up as she takes on harder classes and thinks about her future. However, she says, “It’s reassuring to know that God gave me my passions and talents for a reason, and that He will find a way for me to use them; he wouldn’t give them to me and have them go to waste.” As a self-professed control freak, not having a set and surefire plan was really scary for her, but she came to realize that “plans change as time goes on, and that’s okay.” In the meantime, Pien relieves her stress by escaping into books, music, movies and dance. Although dance, notorious for its high-stress environments, does add some anxiety to her days when she has to prepare for a performance or be evaluated, Pien finds that she can relax and express herself when she gets the chance to dance on her own terms. 

John Yamamoto, Junior

Yamamoto doesn’t give up when he wants to land a trick, and always tries to do something different. Photographs by Connor Malinger (’22).

John Yamamoto is a laid back guy, and his interests in skateboarding, fishing, and surfing come as no surprise. Although his junior year is more than halfway over, he does not too pressured to worry about college and his future. However, he does feel some anxiety from not knowing where his life will lead. Instead of worrying, Yamamoto has devoted his energies to skateboarding, a newfound passion. “Skateboarding is great because I can always just decide to just cruise or go hard, and the main goal is to just get better. Besides, the thrill gives life color,” he said. He finds solace in skateboarding’s simplicity and takes joy in his successes, especially when it takes a whole session to land a trick. He adds, “It’s about overcoming challenges and taking risks, which is something I love.”

Brendan Aoki, Sophomore

Ukulele is Aoki’s means for creativity and relaxation. Photograph by Connor Malinger (’22).

Thankfully, Brendan Aoki does not feel the weight of college decisions or even the strain of AP classes yet. Nevertheless, the future still represents uncertainty and fear so Aoki focuses on developing his overall knowledge and experience in the field of aerospace engineering, his area of interest. Day to day, Aoki’s main sources of stress originates from schoolwork and, he confesses, his lack of organization. He says, “I feel some pressure from that, but I try not to let it be present in my work or life, and do my best to live in the moment.” When Aoki needs a break and some release, he turns to YouTube videos or his ukulele. The ukulele has also opened the door to creative ventures; last year, Aoki wrote and recorded an original sound track to accompany a short film project.

Derrick Djou, Senior

Djou will spend hours at the gym, giving his all to reach new personal bests. Photograph by Connor Malinger (’22).

If nothing else, Derrick Djou exudes confidence, stemming largely from his determination to prepare for anything and everything that may come his way. As such, he does not feel worried about his future; he knows the general direction his life will take. “Just not the destination,” he says. What daunts others about the college decision experience excites him as he enjoys taking challenges head on. “You spend a lot more energy circumventing the problem than you would if you actually handled it,” he says. Djou feels sure about his career path even if he doesn’t know where he will go to school. “Wherever I end up,” he says, “I’m going to be a nurse. That’s for certain.” Djou believes strongly in preparation but realizes the difficulty in preparing for college life when he does not know where he is going. To cope with that, Djou channels his need to train and prepare into weightlifting. “Lifting [fulfills] all categories: I need mental strength to get there, I get emotional release, I have to cut ties between emotional and physical feelings, and I gain the physical ability to endure pain,” he explains.

Cade Yoshida, Senior

Gaming holds a special place in Yoshida’s heart and remains one of his favorite pastimes. Photograph by Connor Malinger (’22).

Even though Cade Yoshida is, as he would put it, “more of a go-with-the-flow type of guy”, he is at times still overwhelmed by the unknowns in his future. “I’m pretty certain what I want to do with my future, but I just don’t know how it’s going to work out. I do know that I’m going to try and graduate in three years though. I know as long as I put in the work, it’ll all work out.” Yoshida was an avid video gamer, but more recently as Covid cases have gone down and he spends less time cooped up at home, gaming has been put on the sidelines. Nevertheless, gaming continues to be a way for him relax and have fun at home, one that he realizes is becoming more valuable as he faces the upcoming transition to life after high school.