I am sixteen and growing, but I used to be thirteen and terrified. New friends, new school, college plans, deadlines… high school is a frightening time for most of us. The time I’ve had in these short years have shaped me more than I can even comprehend. I know that I am nowhere near done with my experiences and learning lessons, in fact, I’m at the thick of it all. I’m looking at colleges and majors and essentially I’m picking out the rest of my life before I can even legally drive my friends to Starbucks. Or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. I could fill every page in a library with the things I’ve had to learn since I first entered high school, but I won’t do that. I will, however, fill a few lines on this blog with what hopefully doesn’t turn out to be cliches and mom-like advice (no offense, Mom!)
Friends WILL come and go.
You’ve probably heard this many times, but I can attest to this. The only person you have at the end of the day is yourself, and that has to be enough. I spent several nights in a burrito of blankets with a bowl of ice cream in hand wondering why Friend A would say that to Friend B about me – what had I done? The answer is nothing. You can blame it on the Niagara Falls of hormones that seem to run rampant through the bodies of high schoolers or on the slow news day for the gossipping network, but that doesn’t change anything. Do not be afraid to up and leave at any time. But, we have bracelets that say Best Friends Forever, doesn’t that mean anything? It certainly can, but before you make that promise to yourself, you need to make a first agreement: never let yourself be treated poorly. Friends are only friends as long as you make each other mutually happy. You must be in control of your own life and your own happiness. Enjoy every moment with those who make good company, but embrace change if and when it comes knocking on your door.
Before I say another word, I must make clear: this does NOT mean what you’ve probably heard before: “Don’t kiss the boy with the tattoos!” “Cover yourself when going out!” “Always act like a lady!” You can, at the end of the day, do whatever you want to do. Respecting yourself means you must treat your mind and body well. You can eat as much cake and ice cream as your heart desires, but do not berate yourself for it. I learned that I have to talk to myself as I would to a dear friend. I used to catch myself talking to my body in a way that no one would ever want to be spoken to (we’ve reconciled since). Your heart beats about 103,680 times a day to make sure you can keep going. You owe it to yourself to do all you can to keep going, too.
Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay.
It used to be my mission to make sure that every person that I ever encountered at school or otherwise thought I was simply great. It was really stressful and time consuming trying to say the right things at the right times, but not to talk too much. I formed a type of list in my head of who I should approach whenever I saw them and who I shouldn’t speak to unless spoken to. It was a mind game of hundreds of names and faces, and I tried to remember what ticked people off, or what topics they loved to talk about. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I just completely stopped. I was getting exhausted and it wasn’t doing me much good. I came across a quote that has been in my head ever since I read it. “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches”. Save yourself the trouble I went through, and don’t waste time on people who will not be a positive part of your life.
Chances are, you’re not going to know what you want to do any time soon.
I know, I know. High school is supposed to be all about dating the star quarterback while doing hours of service and also maintaining a 4.0 GPA and making plenty of lifelong friends. ALl the while, you’re supposed to figure out what you want to do for, wait for it, the rest of your life. Let me tell you something I never even considered in my early high school years: you have no obligations except to make yourself happy. Your parents will not be going to college for you, and your teachers won’t be there to do the work at a job they recommended that you absolutely despise. These years should be used to find yourself and think or talk about different options for your future. You honestly don’t even need to know what college you’re going to until the end of senior year. Do not let this stress you out. Instead, take a deep breath whenever you feel your anxiety level rising and commend yourself for the miles and miles you’ve gone to get where you are now. You will have to put in some work, but things will work out some way or another, even if unexpectedly. The only thing you can ask of yourself is to do what you can. You are capable or much more than you might think, and with a little self motivation, you’ll get to places you never imagined. Hell, even adults still don’t know what they want to do with their lives a lot of the time.
Most importantly, you will be okay.
There will be nights where you think you can’t handle everything that’s thrown at you. Sometimes you will fail a test or disappoint someone. There’s never going to be a guarantee of things going as you planned. This is all trivial, believe it or not. Take a look at yourself for a moment and think about all you’ve been through. Heartbreak, pain, loss, and sleepless nights are probably all stamped on your adolescent résumé. You’re here now, and you’ve made it so far (you go, Glen Coco!). Be excited about all the things you’ll encounter! There are so so so many people you haven’t met, and every day gives you the opportunity to change your life however completely you want to. Take chances and most importantly, take it all in. This is the youngest you’ll ever be again and you’ve got so, so much ahead of you. Good luck, and go make this whole thing worth it.