Controversial, confusing, a time of change and self-discovery, a place where friendship is lost and found again, where heartbreak speaks volumes and you’re left to fend for yourself on this roller coaster called life: high school. You’ve heard about it in songs, watched countless teen movies and shows and listened to your relatives reminisce about it too. They say these are “the best years of your life”. Well, let me tell you 4 lessons I learnt in my 4 years of high school. Warning: this is not a romanticized outlook.
Don’t let yourself be swayed by peer-pressure!
It’s all new and exciting at first. You’re taking another step towards your future, you’re meeting people, exploring your surroundings, trying to find out where you belong. This is where clique culture is at its best, maybe not mapped out by tables in the school cafeteria, like we’re used to, but you’ll be sure to see what I mean – the “cool, popular kids” are probably somewhere smoking, enjoying each other’s company (or secretly loathing it), unbothered by anything or anyone ; the hard-working, driven kids are carrying their books around, getting ready for their next class, not wanting to be late or caught off-guard by a surprise pop-quiz ; anything in between is not as easy to remark, unfortunately.
Here’s the first of the 4 lessons I learnt in high school: don’t rush things. Take your time getting to know people’s true colors. Don’t trust anyone too easily and don’t forget that looks can be deceiving. Be friendly and open, but most importantly: be yourself. You should never try to change just to “fit in” with the rest. Be honest and don’t be afraid to speak up. Because the ones who truly deserve your friendship will find their way and appreciate you for who you really are, not for how many parties you attend or for how much your clothes cost.
Maintain your balance!
You’ve gotten used to your hectic schedule by now. Between classes, homework, projects, exams and so on, you’ve most likely added more activities to your list : volunteer work, contests, workshops, language exams, sports and other things to include in your future resume, as you’re already thinking about universities to apply to, and possible career options. Your friend’s birthday is coming up, you have a presentation due next week and it’s easy to forget about yourself in moments like these.
The second of the 4 lessons I learnt in high school would be to not get overwhelmed. Try to organize your time such as to carry on your tasks without jeopardizing your sleep schedule, your free time and, especially, your mental health. It’s okay to take breaks from time to time. Watch a movie, read a book that you genuinely enjoy (not one that you’re obliged to read for your literature class), go out with your friends and just relax every now and then. Don’t waste your time or your emotions on things or people who won’t even matter in a year’s time.
Take everything one step at a time!
You’re already halfway through high school. Congrats! (How many existential crises have you experienced so far?) You’re slowly transitioning into a more mature (?) version of yourself. You’re starting to see the world in neither black nor white, but a monotonous gray that doesn’t seem to change no matter how much you want it to. Teachers are becoming more and more detached, but judgemental at the same time. Parents seem tense at the thought of your future and uncertainty takes over your thoughts on a daily basis. Who am I? Who do I want to become? How can I make the right decision? Where am I headed in life?
Take a deep breath and focus. You still have some time left to make up your mind and it’s okay to question yourself, and everything else, really. But remember that you’re still so young and a lot can change within yourself by the time you have to choose which dreams you should chase. For now, try not to overthink all the time. Enjoy your life as it is in this moment and contemplate your future not as a burden, but as a way of seeing the bigger picture. In other words, burn that bridge when you get there.
Live in the present!
Last chance to make your high school experience memorable – what are you going to do? Around this time you’re surely drowning in papers, books, binders, University applications, prom preparations and much more. Everyone’s buzzing, anxiously waiting to see whether their hard work (or lack thereof) will finally pay off.
People have changed, you’re not the same excited freshman anymore either. It’s getting harder and harder to gather your friends together to do something “age-appropriate”, like going to the movies or having a sleepover, as they’re all busy preparing for exams that will dictate everything from now on. You’re practically a 40 year-old stuck in an 18 year-old’s body. Oh, right. You’ve come of age already! (in most countries, anyway) You might even be driving yourself to school now. Crazy, right?
Images of yourself as a college student flood your mind, along with moving out of what has been your home for so long, possibly leaving your small town behind, your parents and the routine you’ve been living in all your life.
Well, enough of that. This is the fourth and last of the 4 lessons I learnt in 4 years of high school: Stay grounded. You’re not gone yet, your future still hasn’t been decided for you. Stay present, enjoy the time you have left with your classmates, your family, with your teenage self. Take in the scenery that you’ve grown so used to. Who knows when you’ll be able to see it again?
So, even if high school isn’t what we see in the movies, for most of us, at least, cherish every moment, because they help you grow. These are the years that shape the person that you’re going to become. It’s more than just notebooks filled with information, or unnecessary drama between girls, more than hopeless crushes – it’s a constant learning process, an initiation into the “real world”, that gets more and more “real” as time goes by.
For more teen related content, celebrate youth every day and read this article: August 12th – World Youth Day, don’t forget that you are young inside.