I remember feeling absolutely miniscule the first time I walked into Naperville Central High School as a junior high school student. I remember thinking the hallways were never-ending, wondering how I could possibly make it from the third floor to the flat wing in only a six-minute passing period. I remember fearing that I would be late to class and trampled by thousands of other students and getting shoved into lockers like I saw in the movies. Despite these somewhat (or very) irrational worries, as a freshman, I was excited and anxious for my next four years at Central.
Now, as a senior looking back, I realize how fast time has flown by. The individual school days and weeks drag on forever, but high school passes by in a blink of an eye. And while most of my senior friends are beyond ready to leave for college, I want to embrace my last year in high school and share what I have learned over the years to all of Central’s newcomers.
So, here goes:
Take a deep breath and don’t worry so much. As a freshman, I worried about just about everything—from who I would sit with at lunch to what others thought about me to every single grade I got. In the end, though, worrying didn’t help me through any situation. Instead, it just created unnecessary stress.
This goes along with the last one, but control what you can control. You’ll start finding out in high school that there are so many situations in life that we just have to deal with. It may be unsettling to think that there are certain things that we can’t do anything about, but it’s necessary to move on in life. Accepting what you have control over and recognizing what you can’t control will help you turn negative situations into positive ones.
Challenge yourself from day one. Just because freshman year is your first year in high school doesn’t mean you should be slacking in your classes and taking the easy way out. Freshman year sets the tone for your next four years in high school, and not trying hard is not the “cool” thing to do, but something that may set you up for failure. Don’t overwhelm yourself by taking classes out of your reach, but try your best in the classes you are taking.
Be your own person. High school students judge. A lot. But realize that embracing who you are despite knowing that people are going to judge is always the best option. Why? Because for every person that doesn’t agree with how you’re living your life is, there is someone who loves your character and personality, someone who admires your uniqueness, and someone who shares your interests. So why not be loved for you, instead of being loved for someone you aren’t? I can easily tell when someone is being fake and trying to act like someone else to be “well-liked.” There are people out there that will accept you, and those people will become your true friends.
Involve yourself in a variety of activities and find out what you are passionate in. If you already know what clubs and sports you want to get involved in, great! But if not, freshman year is the time to explore your interests before committing to what you really enjoy doing. I’ve found some of my best friends from the extracurricular activities I’ve gotten involved in, and learned so many valuable life lessons from them.
Maintain balance in your life. It’s unhealthy to be a workaholic, but it’s also unhealthy to get drunk and take hard drugs every weekend to “have fun.” Finding that perfect balance between work and play is one of the toughest parts of high school, but if you’re able to, you’ll be a lot more successful in college and life in general. Remember that grades and test scores are simply letters and numbers, and what truly matters is your outlook on life and your own character.
High school sucks sometimes, but these four years may be one of the most exciting moments of your life, at least before college comes! It’s that transitional phase between total reliance on your parents and gaining (almost) complete independence as an adult in college. Either way, it is what you make of it. Welcome to high school!