This year my oldest daughter is entering the high school atmosphere, although she will only be in eighth grade. Our school system restructured schools this past year and moved the eighth graders into the high school. Albeit, they have their own wing and our separated from the older kids, but the environment will be completely new for her, nonetheless. You see, she has been attending Catholic school for the last eight years, and her class has been under twenty. She has been with the exact same kids for all of this time, and she knows how to manipulate her way in a very small minefield. She does hot know yet what it means to switch classes. She does not realize the myriad of influences that are going to bombard her and test her moral compass. I am not nervous that she will make poor choices. No, she has a good head on her shoulders; yet, I am nervous for what else is to come.
Thus, I want to speak directly to my daughter and giver her advice that was never overtly given to me.
High school can be challenging on many levels. Academically, I know you want to excel and get good grades. Do not be upset if you earn a B or even a C. Look at it as a challenge to study harder for the next test, or spend even more time perfecting the essay that is due. If you do well, feel spirited, but do not boast about your success. No one wants to hear, “Oh Jeez, I didn’t even study, and I got a 97%.” Someone sitting near you may have studied hard and achieved a B+. Before you spoke, that boy was proud of his grade, but then you shot it down with one off-handed remark. Don’t be that kid.
Socially, high school is a roller coaster. You may meet friends that are your friends for life, or you might not. Don’t seek people who you perceive as popular. Seek people who share similar interests as you, who share a similar belief system as you, who look at right and wrong in the same fashion. You should never feel pressured by your friends to do anything you do not want to do. If you feel pressure, they are not real friends.
Relationships change and grow and evolve. When someone filters out of your life, it may feel like a loss for a while, but trust me, you will make a new friend that fills you in a way the other friend could not. I believe every single person who enters our lives enters to help us grow. Never feel regret over a failed relationship. Instead, savor the good moments you remember and the positive experiences you shared.
It’s okay to stay home on a Saturday night. It’s okay to go to a movie with one friend when everyone else wants to go to a party. It’s okay to want ice cream instead of drinking underage. It’s okay to call me if the driver you are with makes you uncomfortable because of something he or she has done. You will experience many new things in the next few years; make sure you are comfortable in the experience.
Individually, you will experience so much emotional flux that at times you will not feel like yourself. You may feel sad and happy all at the same time. I think this comes from pressure. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Life is constantly changing; that is in fact the only true constant. If you find you are down than find something that will bring you back up. Dance. Read. Play catch in the driveway. Things change quickly, but paradoxically, we must sometimes slow down and be patient and wait for the change.
Most of all, be kind to others. Pay attention. Be the person who includes the kid who never seems to be included. If your friends think this action is weird than they do not understand compassion. Teach them. Help them see that an open heart and an open mind opens a great many doors and opportunities for goodness and happiness. Do your best to succeed, but do not sacrifice enjoying yourself. Doing well in school and your extracurriculars is your ultimate goal, but do not be so involved that you stress and forget to laugh until your stomach hurts. Most importantly, be true to yourself.
I am always here for you. Always.