It's only been two years since I graduated high school, but between the numerous June graduation parties, the nostalgic Minnesotan summer weather, and the constant revisitations to familiar haunts from my high school years, it's difficult for me to look back on high school memories with anything but happy thoughts. I know they say that things always look brightest while looking back on them, but I have never been one to hate high school memories as much as many college students I've talked to. I also can't say that my high school experience was perfectly run-of-the-mill, however, because I liked high school even while I was there. And, for whatever reason, I seem to fall into a minority of people. I'm not someone who would like to turn back time and go to high school again, of course, but I definitely can look back on my high school years fondly - good and bad memories alike.
As a little bit of background, I went to a Catholic, private school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so by the time high school rolled around, I was absolutely ready to go. Sure, the first day was definitely nerve-wracking and attending a high school of around two thousand students after graduating with an eighth grade class of thirty seemed a bit daunting, but I can't even bring myself to hate those awkward first few days of freshman year. I was thrilled to become a part of a community that was so big and loud and exciting, and I quickly learned to ignore my own awkwardness. It wasn't hard to blend into the background, and I didn't mind being there. Everyday was just a tiny piece of a four-year adventure (small-scale adventure, obviously, but still fun). The days bled together quickly and sometimes the routine grew boring, but the person I was in freshman year was infinitely different than the person I became by the end of senior year. A lot changed during those four years. And I have to say, I was okay with the changes. By senior year, my high school became a home-away-from-home. I had found a group of lifelong friends (some of whom are still very, very close friends of mine today) and left with a stockpile of four years worth of great memories to look back on.
I was absolutely a pimply and gangly teenager, far from being a "popular kid," with a knack of being loud, whiny, and downright annoying at times, but even as "that kid," I still enjoyed high school. I'm probably the definitive type of person that should not have enjoyed high school, but nevertheless I did. I had a small group of very, very close friends that were constantly staying over at my house, and larger groups of friends that were fun to see at school and other events. I worked hard academically because I had always enjoyed the classes I was in. I stuck out my four years of high school mostly with the same group of honors and AP students and my teachers were continuously phenomenal people. I remember them all with great respect and fondness - they all really cared about their students and worked so hard to help us succeed. I loved being a part of the high school theater and choir community and I created a family in both groups that quickly grew over the four years. I had a minimum-wage job from my sophomore to senior year (which was pretty dang respectable during the high school years) and I was able to go to movies and restaurants and stores and buy whatever I wanted (without worrying about big things like rent or student loans). I enjoyed high school because I was experiencing a new independence, but I was still able to enjoy time with my family. So yeah, in all honesty, high school was a weird place. It was four years of fourteen- through eighteen-year olds thrown together into one very large group all trying to figure out things like hormones and MLA citations. It contained different cliques of jocks, preppy kids, emos, goths, nerds, class clowns, stoners, artsy kids, theater kids, and so many more, but my school was so big that groups were constantly changing and growing as quickly as we did. Everyone mattered to someone, but really nothing mattered at all. High school was always temporary, and that's why it was easy to enjoy it.
I learned a lot about myself during high school. I don't think there will ever be a time in my life where I'm changing as constantly as I did back then. It was, fortunately, easy for me to be okay with myself and I learned (slowly) to get over my inhibitions. Even on the worst days, when girls were treating me horribly, or I didn't do well on a test that I had studied so many hours for, or I was up until 2 A.M. finishing a big project, I knew that high school wasn't the end of the line. The biggest reason I can't bring myself to hate high school is because it was four years of my life. I don't want to hate four years of my life. I know that I lived through high school to the best of my ability, and, though there are a few regrets (as there always will be) when looking back, I was generally happy and can easily say that I enjoyed my time there.
Thank you, high school, for being a terribly awful and terribly wonderful place. I did have a good time, but I am happy to be moving on. You weren't always the most exciting, nor the most important, but you affected both my life and me nonetheless. I didn't hate you. I made friends that I will have for life, I learned a lot about many subjects (and myself as well), and I'll remember the memories I made fondly, but I am content with saying that I don't think I will ever return to you.
So, my advice to incoming freshmen and outgoing seniors is this: don't hate high school. There's really no point. We all have to survive high school. Maybe will be the best four years of your life, and maybe it won't be. Either way, it's okay. Because life continues on after high school, and I can tell you that it's pretty okay out here, too. In fact, I can really only barely remember ninth grade.
Thank you high school for everything you were, but I'm happy to be moving on.