I know right now you’re scared. Right now you have no idea who you are. You aren’t sure what’s going to stay the same and what’s going to change in the next few years. You know where you want to be at the end of this journey, but you aren’t sure how to get there. Everyone keeps telling you to make the most of it because it’s the best years of your life, but you don’t have any idea how you’re supposed to do that. You’re reading a lot of articles on Facebook and Pinterest filled with tips on how to succeed. You’re saving quotes to inspire yourself on hard days. You’re making yourself sick over how nervous you are.
I wish I could tell you that four years later, that’s all different. The truth, though, is that that’s all exactly the same. Four years later, you’re a freshman all over again and you’re feeling just as scared and small as you did then. Since I’ve done it before, I have some good news. You make it through those years and I’m betting on you to keep making it.
You have every right to be scared. Things get extremely different faster than you can imagine. You’re a high school kid now and somehow that means a whole new set of rules from those that applied to junior high. Everything you do now “counts”. Every grade, club, and action is going to matter and end up in scholarship essays and a resume that will take you two hours to perfect. Breathe. Seriously stop and breathe. You are surrounded by so many people who are going to support you on this journey. You’re going to mess up a few times, but it is in those moments you will learn the most.
The scared freshman who walks into ninth grade is not the same senior who will shake hands with the principal on graduation day. You will be a completely different person. You will spend years battling demons both internally and externally. You will fight the pressures of a small town and a media’s portrayal of a successful person. Some nights the person who will beat you down the most will be yourself as you struggle to learn self worth, self love, self importance. It will be hell. When you come out on the other side you will have scars, some that can be seen and others that only you will know about. You will wear them proudly as reminders of losing battles to a war where you came out victorious. By the time you are ready to begin in a new place, you will love the person you have become because you fought tooth and nail to become her. You’re going to find your identity. It is going to surprise you. Don’t worry about it now, though, it will come.
Every bit of what you know is going to change. That’s the thing you’re going to figure out. You don’t know anything. No one knows anything. We’re all just floating along pretending to have it all figured out hoping to someone will come along and tell us, “It’s okay, I don’t know either.” You don’t have to know everything and you don’t have to fear change. There are ideals you hold so strongly to now that you will be on the opposite side of once you leave this place. That is okay. That is how you know you’re growing. You’re about to be so proud of your “transformation Thursday” pictures for the person both inside and out that’s transforming. Embrace the change.
Listen, I wish I could say that at least by your senior year someone hands you a road map and says, “There you go, that’s how you’re going to do it.” I can’t tell you that. Everyone will keep telling you that you’re going to figure it out. When you don’t have it figured out you’re going to wonder if something is wrong with you. The answer is no there’s not. I also wish I could tell you that you do eventually figure it out. Due to the fact I laid in bed last night crying and telling two of my best friends that I’m positive I’ll be failing out of college because I have no idea what’s going on (and it hasn’t even started), I can’t tell you that either. What I can tell you is to take each day and each adventure as it comes. Soak it in and do your best. Your best is enough. You won’t figure it out, but ultimately you do get to the other side. The view from where I am now is spectacular, and I’m not done climbing, so keep going. You’ve got this.
I want to punch everyone who has the nerve to tell you high school is the best four years of your life in the face. Seriously, how depressing is it actually to tell a fifteen to nineteen year old kid that their life is as good as it’s ever going to get? You still have to ask to go to the bathroom and get yelled at for wearing a jacket inside the building even though they keep the temperature freezing. Sure, most of the time you don’t have to pay bills and you don’t have “real” responsibilities, but don’t listen to them. High school is not the best four years of your life. Honestly, a lot of it sucks. It end though. You get to leave and go on to the next adventure. Please remember that. Remember that so many of these people who you let get under your skin are temporary people in one stop of your lifetime. The summer after your senior year, you will meet enough good people before you’ve even moved on campus to erase the mediocrity of the people that often tried to hold you back or put you down. Don’t let small minds keep you from dreaming your big dreams. You’re going to prove them wrong.
I’ve said about everything I want to say. Let me leave you with some nuggets of wisdom. They’re lessons you’re going to learn the hard way, but you’ll never forget them. Never apologize for being who you truly are or doing something that makes you happy. The moment you decide to be unapologetically yourself and selfishly chase after your own dreams you will find yourself surrounded by deeper and more sincere relationships. You are not a cupcake, so you will not please everybody. In fact, you often make people angry or intimidate them. All great people in history have experienced this. No one likes the climbers. Do not be afraid to speak your opinion and say what you’re thinking. Fight passionately for what you believe in. Get involved in all the things you want to get involved with. Be brave enough to love people deeply and without condition. Work to leave people better than you found them.
You only get one chance to leave a legacy on your high school. Be bold. You’re going to do great things and you will continue to do great things. The years in front of you are hard, but you will come out on the other side so much stronger and better than you went in. I’m betting on you.
See you in the mirror in a few years,
College Freshman me.