Sunday, September 25, 2016

Five Lessons I Learned in High School (And Five Books to Accompany Them)

In case you haven’t heard, I recently graduated from high school and started my first year of college. And as most current or former college students can tell you, the first few weeks of your first semester are difficult. There are so many new routines to learn, so many new experiences to be had, and so many new responsibilities to be dealt with.

I’ve been having so much fun, but I’ve also been feeling slightly overwhelmed and disoriented as I try to make sense of the new lifestyle I’m now navigating. As a result, I’ve been thinking about my freshman year of high school, reflecting on how much I know now that I didn’t know then, and wondering who I will have become four years from now.

Obviously, now is not the time to talk about college-graduate me. (I can barely manage college-freshman me.) But it’s the perfect time to look back my high school experience. So here are five lessons I learned in high school, complete with books (of course, because what would be the point otherwise?) that reinforce each message.

Think about the person you are right now. Do you think you’ll be more or less the same ten years from today?

Now think about the person you were ten year ago. Especially if you’re on the younger side, like I am, your personality has probably undergone significant changes. What’s to say your personality won’t evolve just as much in the years to come?

Several experiences in high school reminded me that people and plans constantly change. For example, freshman year, I thought show choir would define my high school experience, but I ended up singing in my school’s top concert choir—and quitting two weeks into my senior year. And even though my future ambitions are highly defined and concrete right now (I’ve been working toward the same career goal for several years), I can’t wait to see how they may change throughout college.

the book: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson: When Andie’s perfect internship falls through, she spends the summer living spontaneously and learning that plans can be broken—and that’s fine. Complete with an adorable romance and brilliantly-written friendships, this book is perfect for any incoming college student.

The idea of being cliché gets a bad reputation, but some of my favorite high school memories come from common, “stereotypical” experiences. I got involved in school organizations and went on multiple trips with them. I not only went to prom, but ran a campaign to get my friend elected prom king. (It ultimately failed, but not before we had plenty of fun.) I stressed about exams, knowing students around the world were doing the exact same thing. I resented or skipped some of the clichés (pep rallies and parents-aren’t-home parties? not for me) but overall I had no problem living the classic high school experience.

the book: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid: In a hilarious romp that made me nostalgic for my own senior year, best friends Dave and Julia set out on a mission to accomplish every high school cliché they’ve been avoiding over the past four years.

Throughout middle school and high school I met English teachers who made me feel embarrassed for reading YA books, friends who disapproved of the music I liked, and people who generally thought my tastes in entertainment should be more like theirs. It took me a while to stop being annoyed by these people, but now I’m confident enough in my own preferences to ignore the naysayers.

the book: Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald—Sadie’s been smitten with Garrett for years, pretending to enjoy the same obscure literature, films, and music he enjoys in an effort to capture his romantic attention. But when she decided to get over her drawn-out crush, her empowering, funny engaging journey is centered around the realization that her tastes are just as valid as Garrett’s—and if he doesn’t understand that, he’s not worth her time.

When I was younger, I thought I hated writing, but through my blog (and through encouragement from my freshman-year history teacher), I realized it doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s not easy, but finding a novel way to send a message is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. While I’m not a traditional creative writer (I don’t write fiction or poetry), I’ve grown to appreciate the power of words and love creatively conveying ideas on my blog, my podcast, and more.

the book: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard: Not only does this book’s protagonist create the best poetry I’ve ever seen from a YA character, but she uses writing to overcome a tragic event in her past. She is a testament to the ability of humans to heal; her writing a testament to the importance of language.

No matter how ready you are for college, if you have an even remotely good relationship with your family, high school friends, or neighborhood, leaving for college will take an emotional toll. When I was younger (even one-year-ago younger), I 100% wanted to move far away for college. My dream school was in Boston, and I undoubtedly would have enrolled there if it hadn’t been for the cost.

But while studying on the East Coast would have been a great experience (and I’m not here to discourage anyone), now that I’m in college, I’m becoming more and more glad that I only live 20 minutes away from home. Not only has my proximity to my parents made the move to college significantly easier in terms of logistics, but I appreciate the ability to meet up with my family more than I realized I would.

the book: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: Set in a small, close-minded Tennessee town, The Serpent King features a character who is desperate to leave for NYU. But throughout the story, the author realistically and emotionally portrays the sadness and nervousness that she, her family, and her friends all feel regarding her departure.

High school and college graduates: what lessons did you learn during your years of education? And what have you learned about yourself or about life since graduation? Let me know in the comments—I'd love to hear about your experiences!


  1. Yay! Graduating is such a big deal! :D
    These books all sound like great recs - especially for remembering those tumultuous years of high school!
    I think the biggest lesson I've learned from high school is probably to just be yourself - as I went through high school, I realised it doesn't really matter who you try to be, if you're not happy with yourself! :)

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