I graduated from high school in May of this year. Looking back, I am starting to recognize the difference between things that mattered over the past four years and the things that just didn’t. Socially, it seems teens tend to make the same mistakes generation after generation. Making and learning from mistakes is part of maturing. However, we can avoid a lot of regrets if we learn from those who went before us. If you read no further, here is a summary of what I learned:
- Hang out with people who care about you.
- Social media are usually more stressful than helpful.
- Appreciate high school while you are in it.
- Figure out who you want to be.
Everyone has different interests and insecurities, but I think that most—if not all—teenagers are concerned about whom they know or hang out with and who knows and wants to hang out with them. Having close friends in high school can be vital. It helped shape me into an adult and made my final years at home some of the most enjoyable in my life.
Like most, I was drawn to the popular kids. However, you don’t want to make it to the popular group, then find out you don’t actually like the people there. Fortunately, my friend group genuinely cared about each other, and we pushed each other toward better habits and lifestyles. If you are wondering if you are pursuing the right people, watch how they act, treat others, and what they think is important enough to talk about. If their priorities are similar to yours and you feel like you would benefit from being in their environment, then you could have a great experience. Nobody in high school has it all figured out, but you can surround yourself with the people you know will push you to be a better person, because they care about you.
Social media in high school, at least for me, caused a lot of stress and jealousy. The anxiety of wanting to portray on Instagram or Facebook that I was having endless picture-perfect memories resulted from the twinges of jealousy caused by these types of photos in my feed. Snapchat was another social media outlet that caused some trouble in high school for me. I wasn’t active on Snapchat for long, mainly because it was stressful keeping my makeup perfect 24/7 or getting the angles right. Social media are an explosive new way to communicate, but they can also be a slippery slope. Try and make your posts about sharing sweet memories with your friends, instead of portraying something false or trying to collect “likes.”
High school, though intimidating to me at first, turned out to be an amazing time; I was old enough to figure out who I am and I wasn’t supporting myself on my own. Being able to drive meant I got to take friends on spontaneous trips to the Yadkin or have sleepovers and talk to my best friend about what we thought our future would be like. It was tempting at times, but I would try not to savor these moments by stressing out about taking a picture for Instagram. Life may be really hard now, but there are always things to appreciate. You don’t have to look too closely for them. Instead, step back. Life doesn’t have to revolve around flicking through a social media feed. You can enjoy seeing your siblings every morning (they are the people you will know for the rest of your life). Or you can find the joy in driving the beaten path to school with the windows down and music up, or introducing yourself to a new person in the halls (there are an unlimited amount of people and personalities to discover).
As most people know and many parents remind us, “High school is the time to figure out who you are.” I have found that who you are may affect, but does not rely on: A.) What you look like (i.e., makeup, clothing style, and fitness); B.) What people think of you (especially on social media); and C.) Whom you hang out with (or whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend). The unkempt quirks (like my eyebrow cock or tendency to lie flat on my back in people’s front yard when I get tired) and foundational characteristics (like my minimalism and attentiveness) I displayed in my younger years were shaped into a unique, steady personality in high school. Your personality can change throughout your life, but habits you form now tend to stick.
Honestly, with the number of high school dramas, teen literature, and common clichés, you have probably already heard most of the advice given above. I have actually found a lot of truth in the sayings like, “You become who you hang out with”; “It doesn’t matter what people think of you”; “Live like you were dying”; and “Be yourself.” High school is a stressful time, both educationally and socially, and there isn’t a simple equation to fix this conundrum. Work hard, so at the end of high school you can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).