High School Halls: What If High School Sucks

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?

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14 thoughts on “High School Halls: What If High School Sucks

  1. Nice post, Julie. I was one of those who hated my high school, basically because it was all girls and I had to wear a uniform. This, during the hippy late 60’s and I was rebellious, so it was a bad combination. However, I survived because I had a huge cadre of friends and we had fun together. I too didn’t have anything to do with reunions for years – until two years ago, in fact. Now I’m more connected with some of my high school buddies and it’s fun.

    1. It’s amazing how having good friends can get you through tough times. Thanks for sharing your story! I’m glad you’re in touch with high school buddies now.

  2. I enjoyed high school, but it wasn’t the best time of my life. I once gave the keynote speech to Grade 9 students here (high school in my province starts in Grade 10). The basic thesis was: “These are not the best years of your life. So if they were pretty good, excellent! They’ll still get better. If they were sucky years, don’t worry. It’s going to get so, so much better.”

  3. Thanks for linking to my post. I didn’t hate high school, it was elementary school I ran from screaming. But I like Leanne’s comment – it gets so so much better. I’m very glad that high school wasn’t my best years.

  4. GREAT post, Julie! I agree that one of the most important things to come from the high school years is SELF. So many teens worry that they don’t fit in, or that they’re not enough, and I just want to sceam, “It’s okay! Who cares! Be Yourself! Don’t worry about anyone else!” The teenage years is undoubtedly tough on everyone and I wish it didn’t have to be.

  5. I hated high school. It sucked. It all seemed so silly and pointless. It wasn’t that I didn’t fit in. I had plenty of acquaintances. Within a particular clique, I was reasonably popular. None of the friendships were particularly deep, but I was never lonely.

    For me, high school was like standing in line somewhere and striking up a conversation with the person next to you. You’re stuck, and you make the best of it. It wasn’t something I wanted to carry with me the rest of my life.

    Rob Zombie has a quote about high school. It has to do with the fact that some people peak in high school. You know the ones I’m talking about. The former high school quarterback who flunked out of college, married his high school sweetheart, and works at his dad’s car dealership. The former valedictorian who became a heavy drug user in college, barely graduated, and now waits tables for living. Then, there are those of us who just sort of coasted through high school. We find our peak at some other point in life.

    And that’s what I’d tell teens who feel depressed because they hate high school. High school is four years out of your life. Five years after it’s over, it will be a blip on your radar. The things you experience there are a highly exaggerated and overly dramatic version of what it’s like to be a grown up. Life is never as crazy, petty, or pointless as it seems in high school. The best is yet to come.

    Sometimes I have nightmares that I’m back in high school. Really.

  6. I’m so worried about my daughter by the time she goes to high school. Kids are so mean, and it’s so easy for them to fall into the wrong crowd. Then there is depression, etc. Worries me a lot.

    I had an okay time in high school but I was so self conscious and chubby and probably created a lot of my issues in my own head. Like Catie said, it’s only four years, but those years have a lasting effect.

    Great post!

    1. Well, I can say–having a high schooler, Stacy–that parents can be a huge support and safe haven for teenagers. You can coach them through a lot. So your daughter will probably do fine.

      Thanks!

  7. High School was a lot of trial and error for me, lots of good times mixed with equally bad. I did dip my toe into things that interested me and then felt pulled in 20 directions. Having my head full of boys didn’t help much either, lol. The end of my junior year I found a new group of friends and things started to turn around. Their heads were screwed on straighter and they didn’t take themselves so seriously, a perfect fit and it made all the difference. As the years go by, I find it very interesting how my perspective of high school changes. I too worry about how my boys will do.

  8. Your blog was very nice but the topic about friends I’m not so sure about. See I’m in Dance and band and I have tried plenty of times to make friends. For the longest time I had a best friend for about a year and a half. But some problem came between us and now we no longer talk and i always get dirty looks from her. I still don’t understand how to get friends or anything like that. Can someone please help with more tips??

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