What They Didn't Tell You About Graduating From High School

What They Didn't Tell You About Graduating From High School

It's not just gowns and caps and smiling... it's thirteen years of your life, culminating in one moment.

I graduated on June 1st. Everyone always told me so many things about graduation. They told me to enjoy my senior year when it comes around because I’ll never get that time again. They told me that graduating was going to be so bittersweet, as I step from one chapter of my life to the next. I listened, but I never really understood what they said. I suppose, on some level, you can never really understand anything that people will say to you until you’ve been through it yourself. But, I still want to impart some wisdom on the upcoming senior class as they go through their last year of grade school and graduation.

1. It comes around a lot sooner than you think-

And that’s scary. You've seen the seniors leave and graduate and haven't thought much about it. But then, all of a sudden, you're a senior, you're graduating.You swear you remember what it felt like to be sitting in the stands, watching those people in gowns float across the stage, not really processing what it meant. And now you're there, and how could this possibly be real? How could high school have ended so quickly? The majority of your life up to now has been about this one thing, and now it’s all going to end. You're not complaining of course, but it sometimes just shocks you a bit. It's scary, growing up.

When you’re at your graduation, no matter where you are sitting, make sure that you take a moment to look all around you. Look at all of your classmates and teachers, and no matter your experience in high school, take a moment to be grateful. Wherever you’re going from here, your high school will always be the place you came from. So just take a moment to enjoy it before it’s all over.

2. It's stressful-

People always look so happy, so easy breezy beautiful up there as they're walking across stage, finally done with high school, and summer ahead of them. And those feelings are genuine. But dude, graduating is difficult. The weeks leading up to it are especially difficult because you have to make sure you're actually going to graduate. There are a million forms to fill out, exit interviews, future plans, etc. etc. on top of all the school work that teachers deem necessary to throw at you. And then there's writing speeches and giving them, planning for parties, all of the end-of-the-year festivities and fitting in last dates and lunches with people, getting things ready for colleges… the list of things to do is endless. Amid all the stress though, don't forget to enjoy everything. It's really not as busy as it may seem, just a bit overwhelming as you're trying to deal with all of the emotions.

3. You will cry. A lot.-

You’ll tell yourself that you’re not going to cry, because you’re ready to graduate. Because this is a happy ending, not a sad one. Because you’re moving on to even greater things. But as soon as the final bell rings on your last day of school, you’ll burst-- literally burst-- into tears. If not then, then you will at some time. Leaving is emotional, as is saying goodbye.

4. You get asked A LOT of questions-

“So where are you headed next year?” “What's your major?” “What do you want to do?” “Any plans for the summer?” “So how does it feel to be graduating?” Um it feels really weird. See, I hate this question most of all, because they know EXACTLY how it feels and even if they don't, they're expecting a specific answer, like some sad proclamation of how nostalgic or scared you are or how you’re so happy and excited for the next step. And yes, they expect that because those feelings are a pretty natural and common response, but how are we supposed to explain to you the true complexity of what we are feeling? It's a really difficult question with a really complicated answer. Until now, I never really realized the value of stock answers that you have prepared to spit out when someone asks a question. So, make sure you have a couple of those up your sleeve.

5. It tastes like sweet victory-

Graduating is AWESOME. It’s the past 13 years of your life culminating into one moment, one piece of paper, one walk across a stage. It’s every night your spent awake cramming for an exam, finishing a project, or editing a final paper. It’s all of the sweat, blood and tears (literally) that went into your education. You did it. It all paid off. Congratulations.

6. Perspective-

One really important thing that you learn from graduation is perspective. What seemed important then doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. High school was a montage of worrying about SAT and ACT scores, about college acceptance, about tests, quizzes, homework, grades, AHHHHH. But you realize, when you’re at the end of your senior year, none of that really matters as much as you thought it did back then. Of course, I can say all this after being admitted into the college of my choice and knowing where I’m going to be next fall. I can understand why it’s difficult to have perspective when there is a problem at hand with no real solution readily available yet. But honestly speaking, it just doesn’t matter as much as you think it all does. Everything will work out in the end. You will figure it out. Trivial things are not worth losing your mind over. When you reach the end of your senior year, you’ll realize that those things don’t matter as much, and you don’t want to live with the regret that you lost four years of your life worrying about the wrong things. So, when it comes time to graduation, LIVE IT UP. Have fun. Go out with your friends, have dinner, go to concerts, party hard and celebrate. These are moments you won’t get back. No matter what happened back then or what will happen in the future, you deserve these moments right now, and you deserve to make them count. Take a step back, apply a bit of perspective and just. have. fun.

Cover Image Credit: Julie Semones

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Your Brain Is More Than A Bag of Chemicals

In David Anderson's 2013 Ted Talk, the Caltech professor discusses the downfalls of mental healthcare in our society, opening a discussion to wider societal issues.


David Anderson, in his Ted Talk "Your Brain is Not a Bag of Chemicals" dives into the world of treatment for psychiatric illnesses, of scientific research, and of fruit flies. His goal, to explain the flaws in current treatments of mental illnesses and present how this downfalls could be resolved is clear throughout the talk. Through presenting his research, and speaking of novel contributions such as the actual discovery of emotion in fruit flies, Anderson displays the flaws in mental healthcare and demands more of the scientific world to resolve these downfalls.

As Anderson explains, the traditional view of mental illnesses is that they are a chemical imbalance in the brain. He states, "As if the brain were some kind of bag of chemical soup filled with dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine." He explains the difference for typical treatments of physical ailments versus psychological ailments. As he describes it, physical ailments presented to a physician will lead to blood tests, biological assays, and various other factors to gather information about what is going on in the body so that a treatment plan can be well-suited to that issue. However, for psychological problems, the patient is often handed a questionnaire to assess the issues. These questionnaires, as he suggests, are insufficient in understanding the complexities that surround mental illnesses.

Of medication prescribed for mental illnesses, Anderson states, "These drugs have so many side effects because using them to treat a complex psychiatric disorder is a bit like trying to change your engine oil by opening a can and pouring it all over the engine block. Some of it will dribble into the right place, but a lot of it will do more harm than good." Anderson uses the example of dopamine and the model organism of fruit flies to explain this concept. He explains how in certain illnesses, such as ADHD, there is not a complete understanding of why there are features of learning disabilities and hyperactivity. Without this understanding, the treatment of just increasing the amount of dopamine in one's system is lacking.

Anderson suggests that pharmaceutical companies and scientists should do more research to not only discover the disturbances of neural pathways, which tend to be the real cause of mental illnesses, but to also develop new medications that attempt to resolve these specific pathways and specific receptors, rather than simply increasing the amount of a certain neurochemical. These new medications could and do revolutionize the way that mental illnesses are treated, and the efficacy in their treatment.

As a society, there is a general view of mental illnesses that varies greatly from the view of physical illnesses. Anderson, without directly discussing it, acknowledges this exact problem. He discusses the differences in treatments, but also the lack of resources that are put in to truly understand how to better treat mental illnesses as disturbances in neurophysiological components. Without, as a society, acknowledging and respecting mental illnesses for what they are, we are short-changing the 25% of the world who is directly impacted by these illnesses, and the countless loved ones who stand by those impacted. A shift needs to occur, and the research and ideas that Anderson presents are a wonderful scientific starting point for these shifts. However, if we as a society do not support the principles behind this science, do not support the concept that mental illness is much more than just being a little emotionally reactive, we are doing a disservice to the majority of the population.

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