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What I Would Tell My High School Self Today

What I Would Tell My High School Self Today

High school is a complicated time. Even if your experience in high school was mostly positive, there’s no denying that you faced some challenges. In my case, I spent way too much time worrying about these obstacles, when in reality, they had little to no effect on my future. If I could travel back to 2016, here’s some advice I would share with my past self. Maybe you need to hear this, too.

1. Rejection Is Inevitable

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No matter how bleak the road ahead may look, everything will work itself out eventually. My college application process was full of uncertainties. I think I set a record for how many times a school could deny someone (three: a deferral, a waitlist, and then a straight up rejection), and it hurt even more that that was my dream college. At least, it was my dream at the time. I ended up choosing a different school that I hadn’t even toured until I got my acceptance letter. It wasn’t even on my radar at all, though I can’t say why not. I fell in love with it the second I stepped foot on its campus. As a senior at Trinity College, I can confirm that I made the right decision. I’m so much happier there than I would have been at my “dream” school. 


Rejection takes many forms in high school. In some situations, I equate it with failure. Getting a bad grade felt like rejection to me. As a conscientious student, I felt like one less than average grade would cause people to reevaluate their perception of me. They would reject the notion that I was smart and think that I was stupid. Obviously, that isn’t the case. Some tests are harder than others, and no one remembers, cares, or even knows what grades everyone in the class received. And a C on an algebra test didn’t hurt my chances of going to a good college. Though the disappointment might sting for a bit, it isn’t permanent. Honor your accomplishments and make peace with your failures.

2. Be Aware Of Red Flags

Fake friends are the worst. Unfortunately, you’ll encounter a lot of them throughout your life, but high school seems to attract the most. Don’t keep kindling a fake friendship when you know it isn’t serving you. And if you notice a big red flag, don’t brush it off. That’s a sign to put your relationship to an end. When I mean red flags, I’m talking about habits that someone has that make you uncomfortable or put your wellbeing at risk. Manipulation is a HUGE red flag that you should never ignore. If a friend constantly manipulates you, whether emotionally or psychologically, it’s time you dump them. They probably view you more as a pawn than a friend. 

Like I said before, high school can bring out the worse in people. That might include yourself. If you find yourself displaying a certain type of behavior that causes discomfort to the people around you, don’t turn a blind eye to it. Acknowledge your mistakes or your flaws and work to better them. High school is incredibly stressful, so I understand if you feel more frustrated or tense than usual. If you feel yourself nearing a breakdown, or if you just need someone to confide in, I recommend seeing a school counselor or a psychiatrist. There are affordable counseling options online, though I suggest trying through your school first.


3. Nurture Your Interests

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I was a bit of a theatre kid in high school, I will admit. But I don’t even regret it. Not to sound cheesy, but our interests are pillars of who we are. They help us establish our identities and give life more meaning. For high schoolers, hobbies can be especially therapeutic. What better way to escape the pressures of college and exams than doing the things you love? It might take some time to discover what it is you love to do. My advice for that is simple, and slightly overdone: try something new. I’m sure you school has a list of clubs and teams to choose from. Sign up for hockey! For a play! Not only will you expand your interests, but you’ll also stand out on a college resume. Since it’s harmful to chalk everything up to whether or not they’ll look good on college applications, think of it as a bonus. You get to unwind after school, and you get to add another club to your resume. It’s a win-win. 

4. There’s Nothing Wrong With Staying Home

It’s healthy (and encouraged!) to go out with friends, but if you find yourself at home on the weekend, don’t grovel in self-pity. You’ll appreciate the time you spend at home a lot more as you get older. If you’re planning on going to college after graduation, you’ll probably live on campus. That’s not a startling revelation, no, but you should remember that whenever you’re bored at home. In just a few months (if you’re a senior, that is), you’ll be all on your own. That means no spontaneous trips to Target with your mom, no watching Netflix with your dad, or no doing anything with anyone in your family. Instead of pushing your parents away, make the most of your time together. I’d be happy to spend a Saturday shopping with my mom, rather than standing around and sweating at a party. And you better believe I’ll grab coffee with my dad. (Another piece of advice: savor home cooked meals while you still can). 


5. Do More For Yourself

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If you’re working towards an accomplishment, ask yourself: am I doing this to make me happy, or am I doing this to impress people? I usually fall under the second option, though I’m still working to do more for myself. You don’t exist for other people. You exist as your own individual self, with needs and wants and the capacity to practice self-love. When you do things to appease other people, you end up putting more pressure on yourself. Say you want to get an A on a calculus test because it’ll make your mom happy. Yes, your mother’s happiness is important, but it doesn’t solely come from your academic performance. If you don’t get an A, you’ll most likely beat yourself up for it. In this case, you should prioritize your wellbeing over that of others. A or not, you won’t feel the need to perform for someone else. Give it your best shot. 


6. It Gets Better

We all have this phrase drilled in our minds: “it gets better.” Though vague and a tad cliché, for the most part, it’s true. High school is not the end all be all of your life. What happens there, stays there. “It gets better” is the last thing you want to hear when your boyfriend dumps you, or when you get rejected from the field hockey team. Just know that most of the pain you feel in high school is only temporary. To echo what I’ve said earlier, even when things look bleak, they’ll come to an end. Just keep pushing through and have faith in your healing. 


I hope my advice wasn’t too motivational-poster-in-an-office-y for you. If so, I deeply apologize for you having read one thousand words of inspirational crap. If something I said helped you out, even just a little bit, then I’m happy for you. Remember, high school isn’t forever. And thank God for that.


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