I don’t know if you’re in 9th, 10th or 11th grade right now. You could even still be in junior high school. But regardless of which point you are in your life, I hope this letter can still speak to you.
Last Saturday, the craziest three years of my life, the period we refer to as “high school days” came to an end. I’m not going to pull an “look-at-me, I-survived-high-school-adios” kind of thing. But I thought I’d share some of the things I learned in high school to you. I know some of you prefer reading with music playing in the background so I’ve compiled a playlist for you to read this with.
I’ll start with what’s supposed to be the main purpose of high school: academic achievements. You might have just started high school and thought “whoa, what the hell are all these things supposed to mean?” You might even get critical and wonder if you’re ever going to use this in real life. Well, from what most adults have told me, you won’t. So does this mean you can slack off? I wouldn’t say yes to that either.
You see, maintaining a good academic score can help you so much in life. It can get you get to the university you need to attend in order to reach your dreams. It can open doors to scholarships. It can even help form new friendships through tutoring others. But dear, please don’t make it the number one priority of your life. Don’t be overly ambitious about achieving so much that you would push others down or cheat your way through school. Don’t let your grades be so important that you beat yourself up every time you fail. That will just leave you feeling exhausted and turn you into a really bad person. Just make sure you give your 100% in everything you do and if your 100% still fails you, then work on improving yourself and learn from your mistakes. Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned: it’s not about the result, but the journey. Cliche, I know. But really, there’s no other way to summarize it.
And then there are the teachers. You probably think your teachers are your worst enemy right now. They get mad at you a lot for reasons that seem senseless. They tear all your efforts down by giving you a bad grade, not knowing how much work went into it. You’re being young and they always pull off an “I’m-older-and-I-know-better” on you. It seems point blank: they hate you and you hate them. I used to think that way a lot. I’d look at some teachers and be like “are you seriously doing this right now? Don’t you know how tired I am right now and you’re still yelling at us?” There’s no way in the world we can skip this phase of school. But then again, now that I’m not in school anymore, I kind of miss them. I’m quite sure you’ll miss some of them somehow too.
No, I’m not going to be one of those people who says “accept what your teachers say to you with an open heart and know that they’re doing what’s best for you.” But I’ve read in an article once that the teachers you meet right now will help you a lot when you meet bosses or co-workers from hell someday. So play along with their set of rules, be nice, and learn how to deal with different types of people with different sets of standards. Keep in mind that teachers are humans too and aside from the 8 hours they spend with you, they also have a life. Basically, respect them as you would respect another older human being. Some teachers will care for you more then others. They might give you some career advice, recognize your potentials and tell you how to harness them. They might cut you some slack when they know you’ve had a rough day. They might take time to get to know you, your dreams, your favorite things, your problems. Don’t take these kinds of teachers for granted because you won’t get to meet a lot of people like that. Let them know how much you appreciate them because they definitely deserve it. But if a teacher gets abusive in any way to you, know that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you have to remain silent.
Speaking of non-constructive people, you’re going to meet a lot of that in high school and it might be one of your peers. You might meet some people who spread nasty rumors about you or insult you all the time or seem to be nice to you but then stab you in the back. I know, it really hurts to hear them at first. You might start questioning yourself and wonder if you’re good enough. But here’s the thing: no matter what you do or say, some people will just want to tear you down. Some people will only care about your mistakes and love watching you stumble. So my dear, please ignore them. Shut them out. Get them out of your circle. Stop accepting their follow requests on social media if all they do is insult you on them. Know that you have the power to detox yourself of the negativity around you.
If you can’t get the negative things they say out of your head, then use it as a motivation to work your butt off, be a more positive person and prove that they’re wrong and you’re better than them through your actions. At the end of the day, they will always be mean. But you will be stronger and happier than them. I actually feel sorry for some of the people who were that negative to me now – I mean, it’s sad that they find their joy through watching me make mistakes because they probably can’t find the joy in their own lives.
Okay, does high school sound scary to you? I’m sorry if what I’ve been saying makes it sound that way. You’ll encounter a lot of happiness in high school that you probably never knew existed before. Most of that happiness will come from your friends. They say that your high school friends will most likely be your lifelong ones. I don’t know about that part yet, but all I can say is this: cherish each and every one of the friends you have. Live in the moment, be present in each moment of high school. When you look back at high school, you won’t remember the grades you got in each test, but you will remember those who get you through a bad grade and laugh it off with you. You won’t remember a group assignment, but you’ll remember what happened while trying to get it done.
Be mindful of your friends, though and make sure that they make you become a better person and accept you for who you truly are. I’ve always been an uptight person and my friends have managed to make me cut some slack off, be less of a perfectionist, break some rules, and have a little more fun in life. Don’t let your friends be the reason you compromise your values just to be one of them though. Basically, trust your gut. If you feel comfortable being around a certain group of people, even if you’re burping and farting around them, then you know they’re the right friends.
You’re also likely to experience your first love, first relationship, or first heartbreak in high school. If you’re falling in love for the first time right now and you’re seriously thinking you’re going to grow old together with this person one day, well I sure hope it works out for you. I can’t tell you to be careful because love is a reckless thing and you can’t love someone better if you’ve never made mistakes when it comes to love. But don’t make stupid choices you know you’re going to regret one day just because you love them. I hate to burst your bubbles, but how many times does a person get it right the first time when it comes to falling in love?
If you’re in your first relationship, congratulations. I skipped through this “first” in high school and went straight to the tough bit of romance so I don’t have much to say about that. All I can advise you is not to depend your entire life’s choices on your current partner. Be committed to them, but be aware that you are still your own person, an independent human being with dreams and passions of your own. Also, don’t let your partner force you into doing anything you don’t want to do. You have the right to say no.
Finally, here’s the bitter part of high school: your first huge heartbreak. It might feel like the whole world is collapsing on you. You might feel like you’re not good enough and it’s impossible for you to be loved or love anyone again. You might develop trust issues thanks to it. I’ve been there and it’s a bad place to be in. But just because whatever thing it is you have with that person you love is over or never there, it doesn’t mean your life stops. On the contrary, it will be better. You’re going to be stronger, smarter, more careful. You’re going to develop better and deeper friendships. You’re going to be more focused on getting to your dreams. You’ve lost that particular person, but you’re going to find and love yourself. As cliche or crappy as it sounds, it does get better. But for now, cry if you feel like it. See a sappy movie and get weird glances as you go through your umpteenth pack of tissue. Learn new skills just to make them regret what they missed out on. But please, don’t you destroy yourself. It will get better.
At last, we’ve reached the end of this letter. My final word of advice to you is this: be yourself through the entire process. That’s the toughest thing to be in high school. You’re going to want to go with the flow, do what everyone else is doing to make many friends. But then those “friends” are going to love the “you” that you portray to them instead of the real you. They might not even like the real you. So just keep being who you really are (even if you’re tacky, get excited over little things, can’t cuss nor drink nor dance, love F1 but don’t know how to drive, like talking to God every morning, are ignorant about fashion, like rock and rap music more than most songs on the radio — aka me) and know that the ones who accept all those aspects of you are the ones that count. Don’t compromise your principles and core values for anyone or anything. Really, you’ll find friends anyway and those who become your friends even after knowing everything about you are your true ones.
High school is a tough thing to navigate, but you’re going to survive and be okay. Make mistakes, learn from them, live in the moment, and just keep on being you. My best wishes are with you throughout these crazy years of your life.