High school – it’s a weird time.
When you enter ninth grade, you feel tiny and overwhelmed – a strange contrast to the confident persona you easily assumed as king of the jungle in the eighth grade.
As you age, you begin to learn the ropes, but realize that not only do you have to keep up with your own personal changes – external and internal – you also must become aware of everyone else’s.
When you start driving, a sense of freedom explodes through your entire being. Late-night Cookout runs are suddenly an option; you can finally blast the music your parents always scoffed at; and you can officially say good bye to the germy, smelly yellow blob that arrives at your stop a full hour before school starts…even though you only live fifteen minutes away.
Then, by the time you’re a senior and ready to graduate, you’re back in a world of familiarity – and with it comes an overzealous assumption that you basically know everything.
But alas, if we knew everything by the time we were 19, what would be the point of everything beyond that? After all, humans are largely motivated by personal growth, and isn’t learning a big part of growing?
Suffice to say, I knew far from everything in high school. While I still know a microscopic amount in relation to the big picture, I’ve since learned a few things that I wish I could share with my younger self.
1. Don’t worry – other people will come along
Whether it’s the person that broke your heart, the teacher that instilled a passion in you, or a friend group that you didn’t want to say good bye to – the people in your life were put there to teach you a lesson. Sometimes the lessons are easy to learn, others subtler – or more painful. Regardless, you will keep in touch with the people you want to keep in touch with, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by an even bigger community of people to meet, discover and learn from. There will always be people who leave a sour taste in your mouth, but there will also always be people who fill your heart with a love so genuine it will feel like it’s going to burst. Of course, who you are reflects who you will attract.
2. The more comfortable you are, the less likely you are to grow
Comfort is great, but best when it’s a reward – just like sleeping all week is a lot less satisfying than curling into your bed after a long and productive workweek. I can’t put a number to it, but if I had to guess, I’d say you should spend at least 75% of your time making yourself uncomfortable. Accept challenges, talk to strangers and take calculated risks. Don’t grow old and wonder where you could have been if you hadn’t taken the easy route.
3. Don’t be afraid to find your passion
Whether you’re scared of social stigmas, or you’re scared of yourself and what you could be getting into, you must dismiss any lingering thoughts that are holding you back from finding and embracing your passion honestly and wholeheartedly. Discovering a passion is fun, but that’s only part of the work. After your natural talent peaks, you’ll have to put in the work to really make your thing yours. Do it.
4. Your time is better spent doing things that hold value
Don’t spend your younger years checking off boxes for the next stage in life. If you’re applying to colleges, it’s easy to want to take on a sport each season, fill your class schedule with honors courses and AP’s, and sign up for every club – maybe even start one and mark yourself as founder and president. This isn’t inherently bad, but it’s only worthwhile if you fully commit and give your best effort. Don’t overcommit yourself and under-deliver. Also, consider what holds value to you, personally. That college you’re checking boxes off for will be equally – if not more – impressed with a resume that reflects a passionate and unique individual, versus a resume that simply shows you did what it asked for.
5. People want to be heard
When you get bad vibes someone, don’t automatically assume they’re valid. Sometimes the seemingly standoffish individual is just shy, and the aggressive character a little insecure. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel connected and important, and the best way to do that is to listen. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you never thought you’d be friends with. Have meaningful conversations (i.e. #4), and get to know the story behind the person. You’ll be amazed at what you find, and excited by how relatable everybody is.
6. Your best self will be your most liked self
Never throw yourself under the bus, undermine yourself, or view yourself as less than you would want someone else to view you. Maturity and a strong work ethic, alongside a love and respect for the people around you, will take you far. People are attracted to happy people, so embrace all the little stuff with good vibes only. As for the big stuff, tackle it head on with confidence, humility and grace.
7. It’s ok to challenge what is said to be known
Just because something is said, doesn’t mean it is true. Whether it’s a nasty rumor that is spreading around the school, or you’re learning a lesson in class that doesn’t seem quite right, it’s important to ask the questions that need to be asked. Heck, I spent the first 22 years of my life believing I was allergic to cats, when, in reality, my mom had made the allergy up to keep me from getting a pet cat. Jokes aside, when you get in the habit early on of viewing the world through a critical eye, you’ll be far less likely to succumb to the consequences of making an incorrect assumption. Always seek out the truth.
High school is a weird time, but it’s also a time for exploration and growth. Although the lessons mentioned above are ones I wish I had known then, their relevance extends far beyond the years of Friday Night Lights and fights for the best parking spot. They are applicable to everyone in every walk and phase of life, and living out these lessons might just lead to a more authentic and rewarding existence.