As I prepare to graduate high school this coming month, it has come time for me to reflect. I’ve lived in the same town with the same people for my entire life, so I think that it’s safe to say that it’s the end of an era. I never thought that this time would come! Narrowing down this era into just 17 lessons was no easy feat, but I tried my best to sum up this crazy adventure and all of the wisdom I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Don’t burn bridges.
You never know when you might need someone in the future. However, if you feel as though said person is toxic to your own happiness and well-being, by all means, light that match.
2. You’ll find passions in the most unexpected of places.
When I entered high school, I prided myself on absolutely loathing sports. I made sure everyone I spoke to knew it. But on a night in late October of 2015, I wandered downstairs to where my parents were watching the New York Mets play in their first World Series in fifteen years. Baseball was the only sport that I ever really “got,” but over the course of that week I went from just “getting” it to absolutely falling in love with the team, its players and the game in general. Even after our team succumbed to the Kansas City Royals, I found myself with a new passion that I never would have pictured myself having. Now let me go count down the days until Noah Syndergaard is off of the disabled list…
3. A book can change your life.
There’s a quote that I once heard that goes something like, “If you say you don’t like to read, you just haven’t found the right book yet,” and I could not agree more. I have always loved to read, but high school was when I really began to realize the impact that stories and characters can have on people. From intently listening to Atticus’s words of wisdom in "To Kill a Mockingbird" in sophomore English to finally falling in love with the Harry Potter series over the course of my junior year, I found friends and homes in the pages of paperbacks, hardcovers, my Kindle, my iPhone and any other place a story could find itself. Don’t let anyone tell you that these words cannot leave a mark on your life.
4. If you think you and your friends are laughing too loud, laugh even louder.
Even though I’m quite introverted, I’ve always tended to gravitate towards more extroverted people. I don’t really like to be the center of attention in my everyday life, so I’m almost always the first to shush a group of my friends if I feel heads are starting to turn towards us. But as time goes by, I’m beginning to learn that I’m having fun, so who cares what anyone else thinks?
5. One day, you’ll see the person you’re supposed to be.
It’s a strange thing. It’ll happen out of nowhere. One night, you’ll be washing your face before bed and you’ll look into the mirror and just love the person you see. And you can’t imagine what it was like to ever wish you could be someone other than the wonderful you that you are. And you know that you’re going to change over the course of your life, but that’s OK, because you know that the person you’re going to end up being is going to be great.
6. Always be the bigger person.
Nothing will annoy your enemies more than seeing you be kind, regardless of how you’ve been treated.
7. If the decision you made scares you, you’ve made the right one.
The safe choice is almost never the most satisfying choice in the end.
8. You don’t have to listen to what everyone else is listening to.
When I got my driver’s license and began to drive my friends around, I found myself constantly apologizing for the “dad music” I liked to play in my car and sometimes even found myself fumbling to change to a station that played music from this century until I eventually realized that no one really cared what I was listening to. So I stopped caring too. Whether you like rap, country, rock, classical, EDM, smooth jazz or anything else, music is music. So, now I belt Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” with the window wide open and don’t care who hears.
9. It’s OK to move on.
I’ve always loved theater. I was convinced that I wanted to perform for the rest of my life. However, as I grew older and older, I became burnt out. Rehearsals became more and more of a chore to attend. I went through a strange kind of identity crisis until I realized that this is a normal thing. As we grow older, it’s only natural to change and decide to follow new paths. While theater will always be an important part of my life and you can bet that I’m buying tickets as soon as Sutton Foster announces her next return to Broadway, I’ve accepted that it’s time for me to put away my own character shoes for now in order to pursue my new passions.
10. The bad teachers will have just as big of an impact on you as the good ones will.
Throughout my public school career, I have had at least 65 different teachers. I just counted. That’s not even counting all of the student teachers, in class support teachers and the long-term substitutes. It’s needless to say that within those 65, I’ve had exciting teachers, boring teachers, brilliant teachers, funny teachers, creative teachers, creepy teachers, lazy teachers, strict teachers, laid back teachers, teachers who try too hard, teachers who don’t try enough and just about everything else in between. I’ve come to learn that the good teachers will inspire you to reach your full potential by making you believe that you can, but the bad teachers will also eventually inspire you to reach your full potential just by making you believe that you can’t.
11. If someone wants to be your friend, let them.
If you ever feel lonely, try focusing on the people who want to be friends with you, rather than wasting so much energy on trying to be friends with people who couldn’t care less.
12. Always get the cops involved when you get into a fender bender in the Wawa parking lot.
No matter how minor the damage. Just call them.
13. Look back at the memories fondly…
14. But look forward to the bigger and better things that are ahead.
Don’t be one of those people that peaks in high school.
15. Junioritis is a thing, but it’s much different and much less severe than senioritis.
I’ve found that senioritis is the yearning to graduate and start your life, while junioritis is the yearning to finally have the experiences and privileges that come with being a senior. Neither of which would I wish upon my worst enemy.
16. Be selfish sometimes.
I know it may be hard to convince yourself of this, but it is alright to make the choice that is the best one for you.
17. I’ve got a lot of living to do.
This is not the end, but only the beginning of the big, crazy, beautiful open book that is the rest of your life. From this point on, only you hold the pen. That being said, write on!
To my fellow members of the class of 2017, this is our time! Think about the lessons you have learned and carry them with you always as you live the unique, extraordinary life that only you can lead.
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