Cycle of Seniority

The school year is coming to a close, and soon, we’re all “leveling up” and welcoming a new freshmen class


Cartoon by Sristi Palimar

Walking through the school, four years has never seemed more apparent. The seniors are taller, more mature, and less awkward; the freshmen, in comparison, are physically smaller and less emotionally developed. Seniors look at them with something close to disdain. Perhaps, for them, it’s difficult to remember their freshmen years- the seniors, for that reason, boo the freshmen at pep rallies and tease them. Four years after stepping through the doors of Woodbridge High, they are hardly the same person. They’ve matured, grown more self-assured and confident. It’s hard to imagine being that young.

What seniors fail to remember is that in a few short months, after their graduation, they’re back to level zero: the freshmen on campus.

It seems to be a common theme: those sitting at the pinnacle of their social pyramid like to flaunt their position. They tease and disrespect those who are new and not as experienced as they are. But those at the top of the social hierarchy seem to forget two things. First, they aren’t always going to be at the “top of the food chain” forever- life is a cycle, not an endless trajectory. Second, they had to work their way up from the bottom of the social hierarchy, too.

After a short summer break, seniors will become the freshmen at whatever college they attend, or the new recruits in their workplace. As for the freshmen or new hires, over a period of learning and growth, they will once again climb the ranks to the top.

Even beyond school, the cycle continues. After graduating from college, we suddenly become the new kids on the block as the latest hire or a temp working for a company. We become seniors at the company, but if we are ever upgraded to management, or into another department, we’re suddenly the ones at level zero again.

This cycle does not end just after high school, and we should acknowledge just how short-lived seniority can be.

In this cycle, the ones at level zero are disrespected. Perhaps it’s in small ways- a snide remark here and there, a bit of teasing. Or maybe it’s in larger ways- the booing at pep rallies and the consistent workplace hazing where the fresh hire is routinely teased. At level zero, at rock bottom, is the worst place to be.

The ones standing at the top, on cloud nine, enjoy a sense of personal fulfillment. They are proud- they have every right to be. They survived middle school, high school or college, and will have learned and grown along the way. They’ve made their way to top-tier at the company they work for and now they have the experience necessary to step into leadership positions. It’s something worth being proud of. They’re, rightfully, on cloud nine.

But this pride in no way warrants disdain and disrespect for those standing below.

One of the first rules I learned as a child was the Golden Rule. “Treat others how you wish to be treated.” Who wishes to be booed at, to be disrespected? Despite the fact that someone lower on that stepladder is, undoubtedly, lower on that ladder than you are, it does not grant you some right to disrespect others and demean them. You can look down on those who are younger- those new in the workplace, or those from a lower grade level- but it is important to remember that you were once there as well. How would you wish to be treated at level zero?

Simply put, human respect is not expensive. It should not be contingent on our authority or seniority. We should treat others with kindness and respect because it is the right thing to do. Purely out of our most basic humanity, we should treat others with dignity.

We have the Golden Rule for a reason. We should treat others how we would have wanted to be treated when we were in their position. We once walked in those same shoes. One day, as we float amongst the clouds, we should remember where we came from: level zero.