How I learned to actually make the best of the supposed "best years of my life"
Ah, the best years of your life.
Admit it: The first thing that came to your mind when you read the first sentence of this essay was high school. Whether or not you had a good experience, that phrase has been ingrained in all of our minds, so that we associate legendary parties, awesome romances, and a never-ending adventure with the idea of high school. However, high school is (or was) for most of us a truly awkward experience. In high school, you’re still growing into your body, realizing that the real world doesn’t really care about your small town, and deciding that maybe everything is totally and absolutely overrated. We all take different approaches to dealing with the monster; some of us put on war paint, fraternize with the enemy, and constantly don new personalities to win the war on terror (okay, maybe high school isn’t actual terror, but it can definitely feel like it sometimes).
The terror, for me was growing up. Maturity seemed like a far away concept to which I had no business aspiring, and by the time I was a freshman, I was skilled in the art of denial. It truly came in handy when I realized that high school was a lot harder than anything I had ever done before. I had enrolled in difficult classes, and joined a bunch of clubs because I was lost. All my friends, at the young ages of 14 and 15, had already decided on their hopes and dreams and career goals, while I was watching reruns of 30 Rock.
I was in an interesting place. It’s scary when it seems that everyone else around you has their lives together, and you can barely make it to first period on time. I think it’s a true testament to our resilient nature that we all push to continue on, even when we’re scared and feeling overwhelmed. But it’s also a bad thing. While I was busy being resilient and pushing on, I didn’t actually listen to my body and its needs. I thought I could keep pushing myself, keep going, and as I avoided my problems, it continued to pile up. I took a classic route, with a classic destination, crashing and burning. By the time I had finally realized I was in way over my head, the damage had been done, the ink dried on the paper, and I had no one to blame but myself. It’s tricky business figuring out the root of a problem, when at the same time you’re being choked by its numerous vines.
Freshman year was really hard for me because, like my mother says, I “transition poorly.” In my mind, I was all set to do everything and anything, but when I realized high school was harder than I anticipated, things got complicated. The pressure was building, and it seemed like people all around me had their lives figured out. I was drowning, and had apparently missed whatever memo had directed my friends safely through the crashing waves. It also didn’t help that I held myself to a certain level of achievement, and with every grade, and every consequential disappointment, my sense of self became murkier and murkier. As an individual, I pride myself in being logical and being able to gauge a situation and properly diagnose it. It felt like I failed myself and, in this act of panicked ostrich-like strategy, I metaphorically buried my head in the sand. I cycled deeper into the confusion, and felt like I was a lost cause.
So how did I deal? I made peace with it. I cleared my mental desk of clutter, and got to work finding things that made me happy. I torched the place, and redecorated. The number of clubs of which I was a member became fewer and fewer, and what had once been my mental escapes, now became my sole focus. I wrote my school newspaper, and religiously went to every meeting. I watched television shows with a careful eye, taking notes on what was successful and wasn’t. My hours watching Tina Fey “make a fool of herself” became the basis of my own comedic voice, and helped me realize what exactly was possible. I started off as a cocky “smart” teenage girl who thought high school wouldn’t be THAT horrendous. Then, I was paralyzed in fear of everything, and became aware of my existence and “lack of success” at an alarming rate. Finally, I rebuilt myself, surrounded by people I liked, things I excelled in, and (key point here, fellas) stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t and focused on what I could do. Why be mediocre at something you’re “supposed” to do, when you can be the best at something you love to do?