“Weird time in my life,” observed a classmate through an Instagram caption. Couldn’t agree more.
This overbearingly simplistic, casual statement strikes me as the epitome of the teenage existence. Sounds about right — not quite complaint, not quite angst, just tolerance. After all the intense hurricanes of emotion; the throat-constricting stressors that left me gasping, as if I were trying to breathe underwater; the outbursts of angry tears or heartbroken ones; the boiling flames of envy and injustice from a fire arrow to the stomach, which slowly sputter out into a painful numb — everything since puberty seems to be summed up like so. These moments of insane genius or simple stupidity that we collectively call “high school” are just moments we tolerate — “weird times.”
A weird time indeed. Mine consisted of having middle school friends slip through my fingers like grease, leaving slick stains of hurtful comments and severed ties; of debating between curving a doting friend and being called “heartless,” or not curving and being accused of “leading him on”; of having girls I barely knew, aided by someone once close to me, haphazardly litter toilet paper across my house in a childish tantrum.
My weird time was when I learned from plunging headfirst into icy, unwelcome experiences. I have learned that if you cling on too tightly, you will be blinded into making awful decisions that hurt others just as much as you have hurt. I have learned that cheaters, both in the academic and romantic sense, are not always punished — in fact, even when their deed is widely known, they receive more success than even they had bargained for. I have learned that sometimes, effort is overshadowed by the one kid who walked into the classroom at the right time, and earned himself a coveted spot.
Perhaps this rollercoaster of wild, nauseating ups and downs is simply an efficient, albeit forceful way to make me acknowledge what I truly value. Life is a system of trial and error; it’s a series of experience and reflection. After a bittersweet two semesters in a class that valued your Legacy status (i.e. whether you had siblings in the class prior) over dedication, I learned that recognition originates from connections and making yourself known, not always by the hard work you’ve accomplished. It was a spoonful of nasty reality, like the type of medicine that is insultingly flavored like an innocent fruit, but the overpowering bitter tang still coats your mouth anyway, even when you try to wash it down with water. I may not have succeeded as well as I had imagined in that class (which, almost ironically, I became a part of because my interviewer was also my Editor-in-Chief at the time), but it was through those mistakes that I learned how to lead in another class that truly mattered to me. It was also through making awful mistakes within relationships that I learned how to tread more carefully in future ones.
Perhaps I needed the “wake up, you’re in the real world” slap to the face. It stripped away my simultaneous sense of entitlement and lack of confidence, and made me realize that not everything is as perfect as it seems.
The high school experience, thus, is clearly not cookies and rainbows. The moments of elation are often overshadowed by the moments of darkness. But in fact, the good and bad occur on a relatively even scale; it was, and still is, my choice to focus on one or the other.
This took me four years to realize, but every moment, even the pitfalls, was one I do not regret. In hindsight, perhaps some rash decisions could have been more carefully thought out, but that’s the reality: without them, I would not have learned from my mistakes.
To paraphrase the wise words of a friend and possibly also of a cheesy inspirational quote poster, it’s not about how you fall —it’s about how you get back up. Just stunt on them and succeed, the friend said.
Senior year, to me, was more or less a success. I reconnected with my friends, made new ones, did well on my remaining standardized tests and in all of my classes and got into my dream college. I think I can leave high school feeling all right.