Going Back To High School

Home Sweet Home

I see a reflection of who I once was.

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On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, I rolled into the parking lot of Mount Sinai High School, just a week after graduation. The red-bricked entrance beckoned me inside, and memories unbidden jumped to the forefront of my mind as I swept past the hallways that I had once sauntered through as a student 4 years ago. I made my way to my old AP teacher's class, and introduced myself to a group of 15-year-olds with a sheepish grin, excitement prevalent in my demeanor:

"Hey guys! My name's Adeel, and I just graduated from Stony Brook University with a BS in Biology and a Minor in Business Management, and I'll be talking to you guys today about college."

I moved to Mount Sinai during the summer before high school, and it was with a heavy heart that I left all of my friends at Herricks (I had previously lived in Manhasset Hills) to move on to something new. I was the new kid in a school district where everyone had gone to school together since at least middle school, and for the first week of freshman year, I struggled to make new friends. Only after considerable effort did I manage to make a dent and start to develop a sense of belonging and accept Mount Sinai as my new home. The four years I spent in high school as a Mustang defined my demeanor and helped me grow into the adult I am today. The teachers that guided me through my turbulent teenage years are still some of my closest mentors, and I don't know where I would have ended up without them through my difficult times.

When I look at the faces of the students sitting in desks that I once sat in my old teacher's class, I see a reflection of who I once was, excited to be graduating from high school but anxious for the future, so full of potential and spirit that it swells my heart with pride that these kids have such bright futures, and the fact that I get the privilege to speak to them about my own experiences makes me feel so old and yet so lucky that maybe, just maybe, my words might guide the next doctor or lawyer or CEO to their success.

I tell these bright souls of my own failures too, of my mistakes and tough times, to remind them that they can and they will get through the difficulties that lie ahead, that life itself is an everlasting continuation of mistakes that help you grow as you get older and teach you in ways you wouldn't have thought possible. I can only hope that my story helps to inspire them to achieve as much as they possibly can, to surpass everything that I have ever done and reach for the stars that I know they are destined for.

Many of my colleagues ask me why I continue to go back and visit my old high school after I've graduated; they feel that it's a part of their past they never want to revisit. For me, my high school years were a major cornerstone of my journey throughout life, and I feel that every year it's important for me to remind myself of my roots and how much I've grown. It's an honor for me to have been a Mount Sinai Mustang—after all, this town is my home sweet home.

Cover Image Credit:

Adeel Azim

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To The Dad Who Didn't Want Me, It's Mutual Now

Thank you for leaving me because I am happy.
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Thank you, for leaving me.

Thank you, for leaving me when I was little.

Thank you, for not putting me through the pain of watching you leave.

Thank you, for leaving me with the best mother a daughter could ask for.

I no longer resent you. I no longer feel anger towards you. I wondered for so long who I was. I thought that because I didn't know half of my blood that I was somehow missing something. I thought that who you were defined me. I was wrong. I am my own person. I am strong and capable and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

In my most vulnerable of times, I struggled with the fact that you didn't want me. You could have watched me grow into the person that I have become, but you didn't. You had a choice to be in my life. I thought that the fact that my own father didn't want me spoke to my own worth. I was wrong. I am so worthy. I am deserving, and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

You have missed so much. From my first dance to my first day of college, and you'll continue to miss everything. You won't see me graduate, you won't walk me down the aisle, and you won't get to see me follow my dreams. You'll never get that back, but I don't care anymore. What I have been through, and the struggles that I have faced have brought me to where I am today, and I can't complain. I go to a beautiful school, I have the best of friends, I have an amazing family, and that's all I really need.

Whoever you are, I hope you read this. I hope you understand that you have missed out on one of the best opportunities in your life. I could've been your daughter. I could have been your little girl. Now I am neither, nor will I ever be.

So thank you for leaving me because I am happy. I understand my self-worth, and I understand that you don't define me. You have made me stronger. You have helped make me who I am without even knowing it.

So, thank you for leaving me.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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The 7 Best Pieces Of Advice I Have Been Given About Life

Some of the best advice I have been given over the years...

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There isn't a central theme among these pieces of advice or sayings. They are all just random things I have been told over the course of my life–especially in the last week. I find these 7 to be particularly helpful in various situations, and try to keep them in mind when I am in over my head.

1. "Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself because there is nobody who is going to help you more than you."

You are the #1 person who can help your own case. No one knows you as you do, therefore no one will be able to help you more than you can help yourself. A lot of things are mental, so once you can convince yourself that you deserve something (whatever it may be) you can convince anyone. Another saying goes along with this, on the flip side: "No one can diminish you but yourself." You are in control of your own self-perception, and you are very much capable of being your own worst enemy.

2. "Stand behind your reputation because you can never get it back."

My mom sent this to me the other day. Be who you are, and do it proudly. Especially with meeting people for the first time, you can never have a second chance at a first impression. That being said, if people view you in a bad light, figure out why that is and fix it. You may not be able to change someones initial thoughts of you, but you can change the way they view you after that.

3. "The best things in life happen unexpectedly."

"Life is what happens when you're busy making plans," also goes along with this. Trying to plan out every little detail of your life is only going to lead to disappointment. Sometimes you find the best things/what you're looking for when you're not actually looking. Just go through the motions and things will work out the way they are supposed to.

4. "Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small."

It's important to celebrate the little things. Did you go to class today? Good for you. Did you decide to drink water instead of a soda? That's awesome. How are you going to work up to doing bigger and better things if you don't have anywhere to start?

5. "Whatever you're stressing about now probably won't matter in five years."

As someone who is often eaten away by their own worry and anxiety, this is a mantra that I try to constantly remind myself. While it may seem like a big deal now, you need to keep in mind the bigger picture. Will it matter in 5 hours? 5 days? 5 months? And so on. If the answer is no to ANY of these questions, it's probably not worth beating yourself up over.

6. "Stop being the 'go to' person for someone you can't go to."

Someone tweeted that their pastor said this to them and the tweet went viral. A friend of mine sent it to me, and it really made me think. Something I have struggled with over the years is making excuses for people who don't show up for me when I am constantly there for them. This is a helpful reminder that if they aren't contributing to you and your life, you shouldn't have to bend over backward to help them out and be in their lives.

7. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

While this is often a saying that parents use on their young children, it is applicable to pretty much any stage of life. My parents, especially my dad, have constantly said this, whether it was in reference to fighting with my siblings or dealing with people at school. Even as a 20-year-old, I find myself saying this when I hear about arguments and problems people are having. Everyone wants to get even, to best those who hurt them. While it's important to stick up for yourself, it is also important to be the bigger person and not stoop to their level (and whatever else your parents told you in these situations).

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