Commentary: Looking back stirs regrets
May 19, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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As the graduation countdown timer slowly dwindles towards zero, I wanted to share with you my personal high school experience. Maybe some of you will be able to relate.
Now, I know you may be thinking this is boring or pointless.
“Why should I care what you have to say about your last four years here?”
Some of you may believe we have nothing in common. But please read on…
I promise you don’t know me as well as you think you do.
We all know high school isn’t like it is in the movies (we don’t have random musical numbers in the middle of lunch, for starters).
It is grueling and monotonous, pressure- and drama-filled, and seemingly never ending. By the time senior year rolls around, we are burned out. We are tired of waking up early. We are overwhelmed by the workload in and out of the classroom.
High school isn’t easy for the star athlete or for the benchwarmer. It isn’t a breeze for the most popular clique or for those not invited to the parties or the bonfires. It isn’t easy for those at the top of the class or for the students struggling to graduate.
This is not to say that high school is a big, horrible, disastrous mess. Like anything in life, it has its ups and downs. Rather, by emphasizing the challenges, I’m explaining there is a middle section to our collective Venn diagram: all of us have our struggles. No one’s experience is perfect. It isn’t supposed to be. But we can learn from it.
We all live these four years looking toward that light at the end of the tunnel. With every exam, with every touchdown, with every dance we are that much closer to graduation. Now we are here and it’s easier to look back at those challenges with some perspective. It’s easier to put each experience, good and bad, into a box and examine it for what it was.
I’ve done that and what I’ve found is that I’ve made a lot of mistakes. All of us have. It’s part of growing up. And here’s where I get real with you. This is for my classmates and for students in each grade…
I’m guessing, on some level, all of you can relate.
I spent my time at Tomball High School as a fool.
At times, I allowed others to frame how I saw myself. I gave too much power to those “tough times” we all experience and, as a result, I didn’t invest in relationships the way I wish I had.
Yes, I have some great friends and they’re fantastic people with incredible futures, but I never felt like I could allow myself to fully open up to them. I didn’t want to risk the judgment or the hurt. So I put up a wall. I thought it would protect me, and it did. It also prevented me from becoming closer with those whose friendships I truly value and from being friends with people who, from afar, seem like genuinely good people.
I wholeheartedly regret it.
Now, with the benefit of that hindsight I mentioned, I realize what a fool I was for a multitude of reasons. I thought that if I put on a cute outfit and wore it with a smile, it would all be fine. It wasn’t. And it isn’t.
I am telling you all of this because I think it is important for you to understand that we are all in this together (the High School Musical reference was not intentional, I promise).
Though high school is temporary, I have realized that it is crucial to invest in those you care about. Find people who make you feel good about yourself, who embrace your uniqueness, people you can sing “Bop to the Top” with you at the top of your lungs, people who raise you up rather that put you down. Learn from me and don’t wait until senior year to find those people.
Equally important as investing in people is telling others how you feel, and to communicate. All of your feelings are valid and they are real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you are going through a hard time, talk to someone about it. Chances are, there is someone at our school who has been in a similar situation. If someone hurts you, talk to them about it. Nothing will magically fix itself.
Also, it is okay to feel like an outsider sometimes. Everyone lives through periods of time when we don’t know where we fit in. I don’t mean to sound like some cheesy Hallmark card, but don’t change who you are just to try and blend with the crowd. You don’t need to impress anyone but yourself.
It’s not that I regret my entire high school experience. Far from it. I worked hard and had fun. But how much better could it have been had I allowed myself to fully connect with my peers?
My point is: connect, express your emotions, be vulnerable. It is important to realize that it is okay to feel alone, because everyone does sometimes. And I do mean everyone.
Just know none of you are, in fact, alone. We are all going through similar stuff, for lack of a better word. And all of us are worthy of one another.
Don’t forget that as you advance to the next grade, go off to college, get a job, or serve our country in the armed forces.
The clock to graduation may be inching toward zero, but a new clock is about to start. It’s never to late too be the person you want to be.