Advice to High School Freshmen

Those of you who have been blessed with the “have no regrets” mentality are either a) lying or b) better people than me. Most likely, it’s the ladder, to my envy. Having just recently graduated from high school, my regrets from that time are fresh on my mind, haunting my every waking hour.

Okay…maybe it’s not that dramatic. Still, for those of you fresh newborns ready, or not so much so, to take on the hellish, hectic, humiliating halls of high school, I would like to make your experience as harmless, and maybe even happy, as possible.

  1. Join SOMETHING. Going into high school, I was an acrobat, and that took up most of my waking hours. Because of this, I decided it was best to take the classes with the least amount of commitment. Something I didn’t realize was that classes lacking commitment in time or workload were also far less fulfilling than those classes that required dedication. If you’re anything like I was, I felt that I didn’t need fulfillment in high school; I just wanted to skim by and graduate. You are stuck in high school for FOUR YEARS. At our age, that is a huge chunk of our lifetimes thus far. If you aren’t being satisfied at all during the seven hours that you’re there five days of the week, you’re absolutely wasting your time. While not every class can be the best class you’ve ever taken, finding one that brings you joy is crucial to maintaining happiness and motivation. Joining woodshop my senior year of high school was the best decision I ever made during those four years, and I regret not joining it sooner. Find your niche and claim it as your own.
  2. If you’re used to taking advanced courses in middle school, take them in high school. Don’t be scared off by those teachers who tell you taking all the Pre-AP classes you can will destroy your mental sanity. It won’t. I pinkie promise high school classes aren’t as scary as they seem, and you are far smarter than you believe yourself to be. I wish I wasn’t so frightened to take Pre-AP World Geography and Spanish. I felt extremely underwhelmed in those classes and felt under-stimulated. Don’t sell yourself short.
  3. Expect nothing. Although I utilized some pretty harsh adjectives at the beginning of this post to describe high school, it was mostly for dramatic affect and to satisfy my heart for alliterations. High school probably won’t be the best four years of your life (and if they are, I’m sorry), but they don’t have to be your worst, either. Going into high school or life in general with a glass half full or glass half empty mentality can set you up for failure. Take each day as it comes, making the most out of every situation without overanalyzing it in a biased light.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be anything you want to be. Your identity is not limited to your past. Don’t be afraid to create a new “brand” for yourself. Test new waters. Don’t confine yourself to a box you feel has been imposed on you from birth. We are human beings: ever-evolving, learning, and growing. We are not our labels. We are not our past. We are not others’ perceptions of us. We are whatever we want to be.
  5. Give people a chance. In the darkest time during my high school years, I isolated myself and believed that everyone around me was either out to get me or hated my guts. In the wise words of John Green, “Imagine others complexly.” Everyone else around you is focused on their own problems and shortcomings – they have no mental capacity to be analyzing your every fault because they’re too busy doing that same thing to themselves. If others don’t recognize the hardships you’re dealing with, it’s probably because they’re struggling themselves, not because they don’t care about you. Reach out to those you believe to be ignoring you – chances are they’re dealing with just as much crap as you are and could use a friend like you.

I could go on, but five is a nice number, and I don’t want to venture into cliche territory more than I already have. High school freshmen, I hope you take my advice. You are never “too cool” to be involved and to make a forced four years of education the most fulfilling that you can.