As an incoming senior this year, I’d like to give you pint-sized peers some information I’ve learned over the past three years growing up in the same school you’re about to enter. As a disclaimer, I must say, if I was a freshman reading this information, I know I’d shrug it off and forget about it within the hour. I was set in my ways as a thirteen-year-old, and if you’re the same way, come back to this in a couple years. This is not to say say your experiences will cause you to learn the same life lessons I have, but it may just so happen that we learn the same things different ways. That’s what high school will really teach you. I’m just trying to give you a head start on that learning curve.
- I promise, the upperclassmen don’t hate you. We don’t. We went through that phase as sophomores and got that bloodlust out of our system. The sophomores don’t even hate you-even if they think they do. They’re just glad they’re no longer in your place and are able to impose their status upon you. It’s not that great, anyway. Just take the inevitable, “Go home, freshmen!” cheers with a grain of salt and think of this year as a nine-month hazing rite of passage into high-school-dom.
- Don’t try to speed up your natural progression of maturity. I’d say, ‘Don’t grow up too fast”, but you might not be able to control that. Just be aware that we can tell if your maturity is genuine or not; we’ve been there as well, and we’d like you to save yourself the trouble.
- Sometimes, you won’t be able to determine whether or not you’re being genuinely you. You’re going to feel like your interests and personality are a highly mobile gas molecule inside the frozen molecules that make up your body. That is fine. You have the next four years to solidify who you are… and if you still haven’t frozen that molecule by then, you’ve still got the rest of your life.
- Keep in mind that the American grading system relies on your ability to retain information, not your level of intelligence.
- Also keep in mind that, yes, grades still matter (and it feels amazing to get an A on a test you studied your rear off for).
- This being said, your mental health should always come first over all else. Prioritize you over your friends and GPA-in the kindest way possible. If you feel like it’s your responsibility to go to that party, chances are, it’s not. If you feel like you’re going to drop an entire letter grade after the test tomorrow and it’s already ten-o’clock pm, don’t pull an all-night study binge-read over your notes out loud once or even-WOW-twice if you’re feeling dangerous and then go the heck to sleep.
- DON’T DATE SENIORS. DOn’t dO IT MAN. Juniors? Eh, alright. But the only way you would be able to date a senior without some weird motives going on there would be if:
- You’ve known each other for over a year (thus allowing emotional ties to occur so emotional/physical manipulation is less likely).
- They are as young as you are, give or take a year (congrats to them for being a smarty-pants).
- You are as old as they are (congrats to you for having the ability to screw up so bad that you’re as old as a senior your freshman year of high school).
- Develop at least some sort of independence from the group you’ve stuck with up until this point. If they’re ride or die, they’ll stick with you without a huge amount of effort from any member. If you grow into other friendships and lose some (or all) of your old crew, do not mourn what you have lost-everyone impacts our lives for a reason. Everyone is a lesson. All lessons end.
- Give yourself time to find you. The real you that we all hear about from overzealous guest speakers in auditoriums or gymnasiums with god-awful acoustics. Self-obsession is a beautiful thing; yet do not mistake this for narcissism. Narcissism looks down upon others, while self-obsession involves an actualization of who you are, what your interests may be, your values, and how you want to impact the world. You can only know any other person as well as you know yourself.
- Respect your teachers. Please. Not just for their sake, but for others around you. This may be a completely selfish reason to plead this, but dear lord, the secondhand embarrassment and burning pits of frustration in our soul are real for us when you’re trying to be funny and nobody else understands why you just wasted two minutes of math class asking when we’ll ever use this in real life when we could’ve spent those two minutes starting on our homework. This is your fault. I’m looking at you. Yes. You.
- Respect your peers. That’s the bottom line. Be nice. Set aside all of their interests, their appearance, their orientation, their religion, their everything. Set aside yours. We all have one common goal and that is to survive and be happy. If we can all network together and raise one another up, we can all manage contentedness. It’s not that hard.
- As a contradictory statement to the previous tip, don’t take crap from anyone. In alignment to what was stated above, don’t start anything, but if you witness derogatory phrases being lobbied in the halls, or if you are violated in some way, you have the power to end it. Speak up. Tell off the kids who are beating down another’s self-esteem. Doesn’t matter who they are. If you honestly can’t muster up the strength to, that’s completely understandable and you shouldn’t feel like a lesser person because of that. It isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of inexperience. Ask someone else to speak up, then watch and learn (or if they’re totally rude, learn what not to do).
- Search for something you love. Note that I didn’t add, ‘and stick with it’. This is because, as aforementioned in tip three, you have the rest of your academic career and the rest of your life to find that out. Yes, you may want to be the person who continued their athletics throughout high school, but what’s going to be on your grave in 70 years? Just find something you love, whether it’s a club (ex: Art, GSA, Writing), department (ex: Band, Theatre, Choir), or just a hobby (ex: Photography and Journaling, anyone?), find it and love it until your love runs out. If it doesn’t, congrats. You may have just discovered how you want to spend the rest of your life. Look how cool that is.
- There is no such thing as a ‘popular crowd’. You want to believe there is. Hollywood wants you to believe there is. They want to demonize the ‘popular crowd’. You want to think fictional movies are an acceptable way to predict how life will be for you in certain situations. I’m here to tell you that there’s only a popular crowd if you let there be one. We’re all just people. People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, personality types, zodiac signs-it would be obscene to reduce a select group of people to one, overused, glamorized, romanticized, label.
- Sleep is for the weak and sleep is for the week. I can’t even tell you to do what you want here, either, because what you want to do and what you’re going to be able to do are two different things. I can cite multiple occasions where I’ve had spurts of unexplainable sleeplessness a few days in a row, followed by an attempt to sleep at seven o’clock pm and then not being able to sleep at all because my mind won’t shut off until my normal sleep schedule is set to begin.
- Don’t feel guilty for liking what you like. If your squad just listens to the music Beethoven listened to as a kid and you’re more into hood rap-enjoy hood rap. Just because something that’s important to you isn’t important to them doesn’t mean your similar interests are now all for naught. Find some people to listen to hood rap with and bond over your music taste.
- You’re going to do some things you may regret later. This includes being a freshman. That, unfortunately, you cannot help. You can, however, help the way you feel about these regrets. You can either choose to live a regret-free life by never leaving your comfort zone… but then you may regret not doing things you think you should have done. You could live a regret-free life by never being in your comfort zone… but then you may regret doing things you think you should not have done. Well. It seems as though the only way to live a regret-free life is to simply feel no regret. Don’t allow it to become you. That F? That night out you should have spent in? That night in you wish you would have spent out? You wouldn’t be the person you are now without that, and the experience of spending your time the way you did in that moment is what’s real. The past is a part of your imagination. It doesn’t exist.
- The adults that you call your teachers have no more idea what they’re doing with their lives than you do. Sure, they may have steady jobs and have networked with their peers, but they’ve all got issues. Theirs just include what we’ve got going on, plus taxes, plus dealing with us every day, plus plus plus. Doesn’t mean they’re all good people, just means they are people.
- Do yourself a favor and don’t wish it all by so fast. It’s true that when you look back on life, you’ll only remember the good and the ugly, but romanticize the heck out of the bad and live out the good to the best of your ability.
You’ll be fine, buddy.