Congratulations! You have successfully completed your first year of high school. Now, as your older and wiser sister, I have a duty to guide you through the next three years of your high school experience.
First off, you’re going to cry. A lot. Particularly during the first two weeks of May (ah, the anticipated, yet consistently fresh terror of AP exam season). Now, I guarantee that there will be times when you feel like the world is crumbling because you can’t find the integral of f(x) or you can’t remember your Russian czars in succession. You may (or may not) spend an hour or two in the back of someone’s car crying from sheer stress, and when you do (or don’t), it’s going to be really hard to believe that these four years compose that romantic life stage of youth and becoming. Luckily for you, I can tell you exactly how to get through the inevitable.
Talk to your teachers.
You’ve heard this before, and you’ll hear it again, because it’s really important. There’s no shame in struggling, and most teachers understand that you won’t completely understand the concept of Newton’s second law or suddenly become an expert historian on the American Revolution after one go.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions in class — even the “stupid” ones. But, if for whatever reason you do feel self-conscious, write your question down in your notes, and ask it before or after school. Teachers love to see students make an effort. Developing a good relationship with your teacher is crucial for future letters of recommendation and emotional support (if you’re as lucky as I was, your history teacher might even make a mixtape for you!).
Keep a planner.
Being able to visualize your entire schedule will a life-saver — how else are you going to remember to study European history, memorize your lines for the play and prep for this weekend’s debate tournament? As your high school career progresses, the more tasks will pile on your plate, and it’ll be nearly impossible to remember it all on your own. A planner keeps you organized and on your toes!
Seriously. Your self-care should be a priority which means that sometimes you HAVE to put your AP Biology review book down (I know you’re not just snuggled up in your bed at midnight “casually reading”). It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but it’s also extremely important to schedule in time to relax. It could be as simple as taking a shower or meditating for half an hour or going on a walk outside. If you’re particularly time-pressed, set an alarm to gently remind you when your relaxation time is up — even 5 minutes can do wonders.
About school dances… go to every single one you can! Or don’t. If your homecoming date gets a girlfriend three days before the dance, it’s perfectly acceptable to volunteer to stay home and eat ice cream instead. (Trust me, that’s definitely the better option.) And if you do happen to find yourself on the dance floor, don’t be afraid to really go for it; just flail your arms and legs where ever the music guides you. People don’t judge — most of them are just as awkward at dancing as you, if not more so. (And if they do judge, they’re irrelevant anyway.)
For mom and dad’s sake, please for the love of everything good in this world, stay away from the boys. I know they’re beautiful from afar, but they’re a complete waste of time. But if you absolutely MUST go on a date or two, your best bet is to watch the school play or musical; that way, you can support the arts and avoid whatever mindless nonsense teenage boys spit out for smalltalk. Although, I’ll admit that there’s never any harm in accepting a free meal every once in a while.
Most importantly, get involved!
Break a leg on stage and join the musical cast! Or hug trees with the local environmental club or run your heart out on the track team. Just find something that you’re passionate about and do it unapologetically.
Look both ways before you cross the street, don’t worry about your acne, conquer at least one Wendy’s triple baconator, be proactive with your college apps, read as many classics as you can (my personal favorite is 1984), don’t be afraid of being a little too competitive in Kahoot!, and whatever you do, don’t blink.
In three short years, you’ll be donning your own cap and gown, looking back on these moments. And you may not realize it, but these are the moments — in all their joy and ferocity and hope — that grace this life with purpose.
Share with someone who may be going through the struggles and stress of high school!
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