What I Learned From Visiting My Old High School
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What I Learned From Visiting My Old High School

Sometimes, you have to look at the bigger picture.

What I Learned From Visiting My Old High School
Kaleigh Watkins

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go back to my high school and talk to the current seniors about college life and the transition from high school to college.

I had only visited my alma mater one other time since graduating in June of 2015, and it was to see the musical the high schoolers were putting on. It was weird enough visiting after completing a semester of college, and seeing everyone up on the stage and not being up there with them was beyond depressing, but this alumni event felt a lot different.

I found that, as I walked up to the main entrance this time, my heart pounded in my chest. I had so many memories in this building because it was where I had spent 13 years of my life; it was such a strange feeling to be back.

I hadn't had the best experiences in high school, but I certainly didn't have the worst either.

I walked into the building and stopped to sign in. Out of habit, I went for the green sheet, the sheet for students to sign in before I remembered that I was a visitor. I quickly signed my name on the visitor sheet and was handed a bright yellow sticker with ‘VISITOR’ printed across it in bold letters. I stuck it on my shirt and then moved through the doors and into the main hall.

It was a surreal experience to see so many people that I hadn’t seen since I graduated. It was even more surreal to me how excited they seemed to have me back, teachers and students alike.

I received plenty of hugs and was asked plenty of times how college was going.

When we all were finally seated in the correct seats corresponding to our name tags, the Question and Answer session (with the seniors, some of the faculty, and some of the junior class) began, and I was intrigued by the stories and tips that my old classmates had to share.

It was bittersweet to be there. The current seniors had been sophomores when I graduated, and I had been close with plenty of them, but now they were eager to graduate and to truly start their lives. They had a taste of college searching and applications, of growing closer as a grade the last few months before everyone went their separate ways, and of senioritis.

The handful of juniors that were in the crowd threw me for an even bigger loop because they were no longer the freshman I knew. My brother, who my sister and I still call ‘Baby Cody’, and his peers, were juniors. They were just beginning to study for SATs and ACTs and to think about what they wanted to do with their lives, and I was a sophomore in college.

During the Q & A, I was asked about the clubs I was in, the classes I was taking for my major, balancing classes and my social life, roommates, and plenty of other things, and I found myself feeling so grateful that I had the opportunity to come back and share the things I had learned in the last two years.

Some of the seniors were openly confident about heading out, and some were openly terrified.

“How do I find people to hang out with? What if I don’t?”

“What if my roommate is terrible?”

“What if I get homesick?”

I found myself making a giant effort to calm their nerves and to help them realize that they weren’t alone, that everyone would be starting fresh just like I did because I remembered being in their shoes.

Along with this, I told them stories of the crazy things my suitemates and I did and the amazing, fun memories I had from my year and a half of college, hoping that they would see that it might take time, but that they would find people they clicked with.

They asked for story, after story, and once the Q&A was over and I was getting ready to leave, one of my old teachers said, “Seems like everything is going great for you. You seem so happy,” and I realized in that moment that I was happier than I had ever been.

It’s easy to overlook your happiness when you’re stressed, or sad, or influenced by what’s happening in the world around you. It was so easy for me to say, “This sucks, I hate this,” the last few weeks of school when I was preparing for finals, but I realized that even when I was so completely stressed out, unable to sleep because I had so many terms and definitions running through my head, I was happy.

I had grown as a woman, and as a person, in the last year and a half I had spent at college, and I was so happy and so fortunate to be learning about what I loved and to have such amazing people at my side through it all.

I decided then that when I went back to college in January and was feeling overwhelmed, and homesick, and stressed out, that I would reflect on the bigger picture and remind myself that things could be way worse, that they had been worse.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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