My stepson starts high school tomorrow. He asked me the other day how high school was for me. At first I was going to give him the quick-and-easy “Great!” story to encourage him and bolster his courage, but fake optimism has never been my style, so I gave him the long version.
High school was hard. That was twenty-nine years ago, so I can only imagine how much harder it is today. In fact, I don’t really have to imagine all that much because social media has made a giant two-way mirror for parents to sit and watch all that goes on in high school and have the living shit scared out of us.
Not because I worry about my stepson – he’s a good kid. I worry about all those *other* demons prowling the halls of his and other high schools. I thought maybe I should give him a few words of advice, so here it goes:
1. Be yourself. Do NOT change who that is to try to please ANYONE, or to try to be accepted into a group of people of ANY sort. If they don’t accept you the way you are – screw ’em. They’re not worth it. Don’t waste time wishing you could be part of the “cool” group – you probably won’t be, and that’s actually better. There’s less pressure, less stuff to worry about. If you don’t want to have that drink or smoke that whatever-that-thing-is, then don’t. What you wear, eat, listen to, drink, smoke or do in your free time does NOT make you cool. Nobody else defines what’s cool except you, unless of course your definition includes illegal activities or substances – then WE will define for you pretty damn quick what is NOT cool. That being said – you don’t HAVE to be like your parents – it’s ok to be separate from all of us, just don’t toss out the good stuff we’ve taught you.
2. Be kind. Yeah, I know. It’s getting a bit Kum-by-ah in here, but it really is important. I know you’re not the type of person who would do or say mean things intentionally, but don’t follow the crowd if they are doing or saying mean things. Stand up for the underdog and if you see someone who looks like they might be hurting in any way, ask if they’re ok. Encourage people and set an example of how to be an all-round nice guy – they don’t always finish last.
3. Be honest. With others, but mostly with yourself. If you need help with something – get it. If you don’t like something, say so in a respectful way. If you have a romantic interest in someone – show them or tell them that you’re interested. Lying only hurts everyone involved, including you, and kidding yourself is still a form of lying!
4. Be prepared. High school can be shitty at times – don’t let that get you down – it’s temporary (but if it does get you down a lot – please tell us or a guidance counsellor so we can help you deal with it). It can also be fun and rewarding, if you let it. Be open to trying new things. Be ready to do well at the things you know are coming like tests, exams, projects and homework. Do your best and try your hardest, even if that means hard work and missing out on something more fun. Sure, the first year is a bit of a throwaway, but then it gets more serious and while I agree that it’s absolutely ridiculous that you need to decide at your age what you want to do for your entire adult life, neither one of us is empowered to change that, so you will need to bust your ass to get into a good university and get a PH.D in some field that will negate me needing a huge pension.
5. Be open. High school will teach you many lessons and while I wish it weren’t so – some of those lessons will suck. Lest you think this message is just one big warning about how crappy high school is – be open to all the fun that you are going to have also. Each day you can get up and be afraid or worried and pessimistic about what your day might do to you, or you can wake up and feel like you are open to some fantastic experiences and finding the joy. Thankfully you are generally a happy person, so keep that up, keep doing what you love and be open to trying new things that you might also love.
I love you, bud.
You’re going to kick high school’s ass because you’re brilliant, funny, kind, considerate, and just all-round awesome. You’ve got everything it takes to have the best four years of your life.
I hope you do.
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