With June fast approaching and graduation closing in, I look back on my high school days and wonder what I would tell myself if I could go back in time to when I was walking the halls for the first time as a freshman. My friends would tell you, I did it all. No, really: Everything. I loved being involved in my school wherever I was, and this didn’t change when I moved schools and states, right before the start of my junior year. I participated in sports and clubs and had many friendships. This part of high school was great; I loved everything that came with being active and proud of my schools. But, of course, there were times that high school weighed a thousand pounds on my back the way it also must seem for at least some of my peers.
When I moved schools, and began attending high school with people whom I had grown up with, I thought I felt more at home. However, when I found that these childhood friends had changed just as much as I had, I realized that it wasn’t realistic to think that we could pick up exactly where we had left off. I had changed and some of those people I called “friend” didn’t exactly like who I had turned out to be.
My senior year I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and try out for cheerleading. I felt awkward and discouraged when many of my “friends” gave me a side eye or told me that I didn’t belong there. Which I guess brings me to the first thing I would tell myself: Be confident. Somewhere in the maze of trying to be other people and please everyone, I had lost what makes me myself. Without my own confidence everything seemed like a pretty dark place. Now that I am looking on the outside of that whole experience I wish I could have seen that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of me, I was my own amazing individual. Ironically enough, as I theoretically write to my past self, I’m preparing to participate in a fashion show where people will see me. If you had told me even a couple months ago that I would be in this show and confident that I could rock a stage as myself, I would have laughed straight in your face.
Find yourself true friends. I realize now that I have spent so much time throughout my years, trying to make people like and accept the person that I choose to be, but it’s so much easier when they already love you as you are. It may have taken me a long time to figure that out, but now I’m going into college knowing that I want to hold out to find friends who cherish me, my puns and my personality, all for the person that they make me. Not only that, but I now know that I have people I can rely on to call me when I’m feeling down, encourage me when I’m lacking confidence and sit proudly in the audience when I achieve something. Those of you with people like this know exactly how important they are, even if it is difficult to put into words.
You’re going to fail at some point. If that isn’t the understatement of four years! Failure is bound to happen! We’re all humans and we’re going to mess up. It may be huge, or something small, but I’ve realized that the time I spent bubble-wrapping myself doesn’t make a difference when you see that you’ve let someone down or your grades aren’t what you wanted them to be. It’s okay to fail but if you choose not to admit it or refuse to learn anything from it then you’ve failed yourself and that’s worse. My failures told me when I needed to work harder, when the effort I made wasn’t cutting it, and when the things I was trying to do weren’t for me.
Don’t let someone tell you what you can or can’t do. I can’t emphasize this one enough, you can do absolutely anything that you put your mind to. If everyone embraced this, there would be a lot more things done and a lot less “what ifs.” You want that spot on the team? Practice. You want those grades? Study. But don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not capable of whatever it is.
There is a lot I wish I would have known throughout my high school experience but all of those learned lessons I believe have made me my own person. I hope that whoever is reading this article finds something helpful for their own high school experience, leading up to their senior year. And then, happy graduation!
Cayce Lee is a senior at Pine Forest High School