When you’re 14 years old and kids are mean in the cafeteria it’s all you can think about. When you’re 15 years old and high school isn’t quite what you thought it would be it’s all you can think about. When you’re 16 years old and you are one stop sign away from passing your driving test it’s all you can think about. When you’re 17 years old and your’e unfinished physics project is due tomorrow and you haven’t yet bought a dress for prom next weekend it’s all you can think about. But somehow when you’re 18 years old and the day is tomorrow it is the last thing you want to think about. Because suddenly these back country roads, overprotective community mothers and small classroom walls don’t feel restrictive, they feel like home. And where ever you’re headed for probably won’t have a movie theater that only seats 50 and you probably won’t have known every faculty member at your new school since kindergarten. Suddenly a comfort zone seems like a pretty nice place to stay. And in the back of your mind you know the familiar words “great opportunities”, “new friends” and “higher education” still ring true and you’ve had a countdown for this on your phone since December of your junior year but still. When you’re 18 years old and the day is tomorrow you’re wondering how the heck it came so fast. And suddenly leaving sounds less like an empty threat to your entire hometown on a bad day and more like a deadline fast approaching, ominous and unknown. And all this time you’ve been trying to kill for 18 years is somehow running out. And you’d be lying if you say you won’t sleep a little lighter tonight in your own bed and get a little sad/scared/terrified when your parents hug you goodbye tomorrow in front of your roommate. But dawn will break and you will be in a new bed in a new room in a new city and you won’t be leaving, you’ll be beginning.
I leave for college 2 weeks from today and while I can provide no college advice, I did survive four years of high school. I think sometimes as time goes on we forget the annoying, irritating, less than fun aspects of an event in favor of the good. We romanticize our memories and while I realize high school is definitely one of the easiest time periods of many of our lives I do not think we should undersell the awkward, acne, drama and braces filled four years we spend in one building with 100+ of our best friends and enemies. So as a recent high school graduate I won’t make you feel like these should be the best four years of our life and shame you for not enjoying it more. Because as a sophomore sitting in biology class on a rainy Tuesday listening to someone’s eraser squeak I can’t say I was entirely thrilled with high school. But here’s a few tips to make up for those kind of class periods:
- Be involved. Join a club, a sports team, the musical, run for class officer. These are things you won’t be able to do 10 years from now. I know right now you just want to be 25 out on your own and making your own decisions outside of these walls but when you’re 25 you probably won’t be able to casually paint your entire body blue on a Friday night or spend the afternoon building a giant paper mache rock for a homecoming float. This is your time to figure out who you are and what you like. High school has a tendency to create molds for people. You fit into a select category whether it be “athlete”, “band nerd”, “drama queen”, what have you. Break out of that mold. Cross the lines. If you’ve played sports your whole life, join academic team. If you’ve never so much as played a recorder, join the band. Some of my favorite high school experiences were things that some people gave me a hard time for doing. Experiment with what you like and who you are. Go to the football games, tennis matches, cross country meets. Make it your goal to attend one of every kind of sporting event your school offers (yes, even wrestling meets). You are not too cool for homecoming or a student section, just go. Those atypical high school things like prom and pep rallies are only things you get to do when you’re about 17, appreciate that.
- Be positive. Your attitude is everything. I’m sure you’ve probably seen that on a cartoon poster or two plastered beside a chalkboard. But really high school is what you make of it. If you choose to be miserable, you will be. My freshman year I chose to be miserable and by December I was signed up to visit a private school. That same month I started basketball cheer and suddenly being miserable didn’t seem like such a good choice anymore. I graduated from this same school 4 years later. You get to decide whether you’re going to have a good high school experience or not. It won’t all be winning homecoming queen or the state championship, but it’s an experience and if you’re the same person when you graduate as you were when you walked in those doors as a freshman, you’ve done it wrong. Grow, learn and experience everyday. Embrace where you are right now and know while these might not be the best four years of your life (I hope for your sake they are not), these years are valid and you can choose to be happy.
- Be aware. Don’t forget this isn’t forever. The day will come, sooner rather than later, that some well-meaning adult will question you about your life plan and it’s a good idea to at least pretend you have one. That freshman history class WILL be on the transcript you send to colleges. That final exam does matter. Please please please try. You’re setting up a pretty vital stepping stone for the rest of your life. In a world with increasing importance placed on education, a high school diploma is essential. Also fun fact: if you don’t like a teacher, doing badly in their class hurts YOU more than them, don’t take that method of revenge. Take electives: symphonic band, digital photography, sports lit, etc. but keeping that diploma in the back of your mind always. “Real life” comes faster than you think.
You will mess up and there will be Mondays where you just can’t get out of bed at 6 am. You might fail a few tests and overhear a few untrue rumors about yourself. But overall I hope that you dance at your senior prom and I hope when you walk across that stage at graduation there’s a tiny part of you that knows you’re gonna miss it.
I got a little bored the other day so: Man on Fire