Throughout this High School Halls series on Deep-Fried Friday, I’ve waxed nostalgic about various topics like fashion, school spirit, football, friendship, and dances. However, plenty of you have shared that high school was not an exciting time for you. These were not your glory days. You lived under the radar or rebelled against the system. You wouldn’t want to go back for anything, and you’re glad you’re out.
Yeah, it’s true. For some people, high school sucks.
If it didn’t suck sometimes, young adult authors wouldn’t have nearly so much to write about or readers who could relate to a main character’s struggles.
For myself, I didn’t hate high school. It was fine. But when I graduated, I was done. I didn’t look back. I moved on. In fact, I was MIA from the reunion committee for almost 20 years. I had a mixture of good and bad, and my future looked better so I put my focus there.
Twenty years later, I discovered that my high school friends are worth keeping up with, but I covered that in the post about my high school reunion.
So what do you do when high school sucks?
If high school already happened, you probably pushed it to the side of your memory. Tried to forget about the loneliness or the hurt or the feelings that you didn’t fit in or the desire to study at your own pace or the sense that none of this mattered anyway. You started marking time when you got out of high school or sometime after that–when your life was in your own hands and you could make it what you wanted.
Some people harbor feelings of hurt and resentment about things that happened in high school. Perhaps they were the victim of bullying or taunting, or the carrier of a broken heart from unrequited teenage love, or the teen who was woefully underestimated by staff and students alike. Those feelings can follow you into the future. Frank Peretti wrote a book titled The Wounded Spirit which friends have recommended for those who still carry pain from their past.
But what if you’re smack dab in the midst of the misery? What then?
Define yourself. I’m repeating this point that I found on a funny video called How to Survive High School (yes, it’s worth a click). But it is true. Whether you are popular or a misfit, the people that seem to have fared best in the long run are those who didn’t have regrets about who they were. They figured out their identity not as a negative reaction to others around them or to cliques that invited them in or family or teacher expectations; they had a sense of self based on what they were good at, what they enjoyed, what interested them, and what made them unique.
Discover friends. You don’t need a whole posse, but you should have friends. If you’re struggling in that area, expand your sights. Believe me, there is someone else at your school who would like to befriend you. Get involved in an extra-curricular activity (most schools have numerous sports and clubs) to find friends with similar interests or look for the loner at the lunch table. You might not hit it off, but you might. I met one of my best college friends when I forgot to bring my pen to an essay test and borrowed one from her. Small thing . . . one conversation led to another . . . still friends.
Develop yourself. Yes, you have to take English and math and history, etc. But you should have a little wiggle room in your schedule to find a class or activity that develops your talents. You’ll fare better at school if you have something to look forward to–your drama class, the tennis tournaments, yearbook staff, student council, etc. Even if your thing is jamming in your basement with an electric guitar or drawing anime comics, look for opportunities to use those talents at school. If you don’t know where to start, find your favorite teacher or the school counselor and start asking questions. You’re in high school anyway; you might as well use the time to get good at something you might do for work or a hobby someday.
Defend yourself. No one should accept bullying. If you or a teenager you know is being cruelly attacked, speak up. You should not spend your high school years dodging physical or verbal blows from other students (or even a teacher). Be an advocate for yourself and for others. You may need to get people in authority (parent, teacher, school staff) involved. But don’t spend another day in fear or plotting revenge; just stand up for yourself.Note: After I published this post, I found Lisa Hall-Wilson’s post on Bullying: The New Dynamic. It’s a good look at bullying then and now.
Disarm yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in how much things suck and become overwhelmed and sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of angst. Don’t do that. Disarm yourself with humor and perspective. Lighten up. Whatever seems so awful likely isn’t the end of the world. This is four years of your life and, while those years may seem like forever, they aren’t. Find ways to amuse yourself. Be charming. Be funny. Be optimistic. Some of the best comedians came from terrible circumstances; they learned to weather difficulty through humor. You can try it yourself and see how it works.
What if high school still sucks?
It might. But if you survive intact–knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and with a friend or two, you’ll be okay. Memories do fade, and you can create newer, better ones. Some people who hated high school are living pretty fabulous lives now.
How about you? Did/does high school suck? What did you do to get through? What advice would you give for surviving high school when it’s not all it should be?