My high school graduating class had its 25-year reunion this summer.
It’s a little hard to accept that kids born the year we graduated have been legal to buy alcohol long enough that it’s no longer even novel for them.
Even though I didn’t go to our reunion, the anniversary got me thinking about my 17-year-old self.
A few weeks ago, I laughed with a friend about how dangerous the teen mindset can be — you’re so sure you have it all figured out that you can’t even comprehend how much you don’t know yet.
If I could give myself some life advice as I was finishing high school, even though there’s a good chance I wouldn’t listen:
1. All the “who’s prettiest?” and “who’s most popular?” games don’t really matter. Yes, some people will continue to play them when we’re middle aged, but adult success and happiness is not determined by who was on homecoming court.
2. You will find your tribe later. In high school, I often felt like an oddball misfit. I simultaneously craved acceptance by the cool crowd and found the whole popularity thing mystifying and silly. I heard about drinking parties out on Crane Road and didn’t know where that was or how to join in. Then I arrived at college and immediately felt I belonged with the journalism nerds who spent hours working on our newspaper. They didn’t judge me by whether I’d made the cheerleading squad but by the story I turned in on deadline. Being an adult gives you the ability to choose friends based on their interests, their passion, whether they make you laugh, without regard for age or geography.
3. Treasure your friends. My biggest high school regret is that I let a really wonderful group of friends slip away. I invested too much energy in a boy who wasn’t worth it and learned the hard way that friends will get tired of your drama and move on. If I could have a do over, I’d value their friendship so much more.
4. You’re learning more than what shows up on your report card. I skipped a grade in elementary school, took advanced placement classes and got good grades. I sweated my GPA, though not enough to really get organized about homework and studying. Being a smart kid was part of my identity. Turns out I was also learning prioritization and time management. I was experimenting with what excited me in extracurriculars like school plays. I was trying on different social crowds, hanging out with musicians and athletes and newspaper staff. All that matters, too.
5. It’s OK not to know. It’s laughable that at 15, we’re supposed to choose a college major that helps inform which schools to apply to, all in the service of putting us on a career path. What if you’re not supposed to go to college? What if you pick wrong? Thankfully, Central Michigan ended up suiting me well and I’ve enjoyed a couple of decades in and around journalism. But maybe I’d have been just as happy if I’d gone with my original plan of studying dentistry at University of Michigan. Or if I’d done something totally different, something I’d never heard of as a kid in Saginaw or that didn’t even exist then. Don’t worry about making a perfect decision. You can change your mind later.
(P.S. When you hear about the Internet, learn to code — you’ll be in on the ground floor and nobody else knows what they’re doing, either.)
What advice would you like to give your teenaged self?
- How Cool Are We Really? (coleg225.wordpress.com)
- “Look, ma! I’m going to college!” (kevinmlu.wordpress.com)
- Julie Mack: 7 essential tips for parents of high school freshmen (mlive.com)
- Five Signs it Was a Good Reunion (thesailorswoman.wordpress.com)
- Time Of Your Life? (Emphasis On The Good Riddance Part) (whoisthemanbehindthecurtain.wordpress.com)
- The single and the high school reunion (singlevancouver.wordpress.com)