A Teen’s Candid Account of Entering High School
As I think back to what my emotions were as a fledgling high school student, I remember a mix of feelings: excitement, apprehension, uncertainty, joy and concern.
My most vivid memory is walking in the front doors on the first day of school with a huge duffle bag full of soccer clothes for practice that day—and not having any clue where to put my bag.
I recall feeling mortified in asking someone what to do with all of my stuff.
Years later, I’ve found myself working with students and listening to them confess the same mixed feelings I felt as I prepared for high school. The real question I’ve been asking myself over and over has been what’s going through my teenagers’ individual minds, and how I can actually help launch them into the next phase of their lives successfully.
I consulted a talented young writer, Catherine, and asked her if she could give us a candid account of what it feels like to be standing on the brink of entering high school. In her own words, this is what Catherine has to say:
For me, entering high school has proved to be an absolutely thrilling – and terrifying – experience.
Ever sense we were in Kindergarten this has been a place we’ve longed to be. Middle school was merely a stepping stone. It was never the real thing. But now that we’re there, high school has been morphed into this bittersweet place that we’re going to be spending 7 hours in for 5 days out of a week, for 9 months out of a year, for 4 years.
Sounds a bit daunting, don’t you think?
Everyone I know has told me of two sides of high school. The fun, parties and football games, freedom-filled side, and the nervous breakdowns, bullying and extremely stressful finals side.
From what my friends say, there is no in between. But I’ve decided to look at this way: Maybe they make it sound black and white, and even a bit scary.
But when we tell someone – anyone – about something, don’t we tend to overdo the details? We go to the absolute extreme of everything. It’s either the really really good or the really really bad.
No one tells what it’s like between classes, or how the lunch food tastes, or who the good teachers and the bad teachers are. No one remembers to mention the seemingly insignificant, completely ordinary, details.
Are they just as important as finals? Not nearly. But convincing myself that not everything is dramatic and extreme every day really helped me realize that high school is just another part of life, and it’s really easy to forget that with all of the social stereotypes attached to it.
One of my other biggest fears of high school, of course, is the social fear. Typical one, of course, but it’s a fear nonetheless.
I can’t help that I’m one who holds onto the past. I cling to what I know. I cling to what is normal and what gives me a little bit of comfort, even if that feeling of security is a fake one.
Change is a good thing, I know that for a fact. But change is also something that many people, including myself, fear. My fear is leaving my friends…friends I know and love.
In a way, there’s also a sense of security with the people who bullied me. Because they already exposed every single secret I have, there’s nothing left to spread rumors about, or just make me feel terrible about.
I guess I’ll miss the sense of being me the most. It didn’t matter what I did in middle school. Those people knew me like a second family. And now, I’m going to live in a house full of strangers.
Making friends is something a lot of people have told me I’m good at. Which, I guess I can seem like a really social person when you’re hanging out with me. But the truth is, I’m probably one of the shyest people deep down. I usually keep to myself or my group of 1 or 2 friends, and people I don’t know really scare me.
I’m a naturally trusting person, and that’s got me hurt way too many times, which is probably why I fear it so much. I end up trusting people quickly, and I’m always scared of getting hurt.
Everyone sees the movies like Mean Girls about how ruthless and harsh people in high school can be, which is another thing I fear.
But in a way, I can’t help but be really excited to be moving on. I’m looking forward to starting on the path for the career I want (author) and while I know that there will be bad times, I also am sure that there will be good times.
As I said before, going into high school truly has proved to be a tremendously exciting and terrifying experience, but sometimes you don’t need other people telling you what to be scared of, or excited for.
Sometimes the mere feeling of preparedness can get you farther than anyone else’s words ever could.
It’s our own attitude that tells us how we feel, so I refuse to go into High School thinking that it’s going to be terrible.
I guess the biggest help parents can offer is to let us establish our own character. I know that when my mom began fighting with me about what style of clothes to wear, it only made the stress of going into high school worse.
Help us by explaining that we will make friends, but that not everyone is going to like us, and we have to cope with that. All in all, just being an adult that we feel open enough to talk to can really help in the long run.
As we can see, the tension between excitement and fear, joy and apprehension is flickering through our teenagers’ minds at all times as they anticipate going into high school.
Our role as Christian leaders is to gently guide them through this uncharted territory in their lives. It’s not the time for us to lecture them endlessly about what our high school days were like, but to give them a slice of our own experiences only to encourage them that we, too, have felt that fear and survived.
I loved how Catherine put it, that going into high school is a “tremendously exciting and terrifying experience, but sometimes you don’t need other people telling you what to be scared of, or excited for”.
It’s a reminder to us all, as leaders, that we need to let our youth stand on their own two feet and encounter the world themselves.
Through our messages of encouragement, our hugs and high fives, our loving advice and admonition, and our cheerful attitudes, we can show our youth that they are supported and dearly loved—not only by us, but also by their Savior.
More than anything, we can serve as a beacon of Christ’s unconquerable, unending love for them. We can remind them that no matter what they face in the years ahead, they are still God’s dearly and beloved children who are given grace by the incredible sacrifice of Jesus.
May that be what our students walk into this new school year knowing—even as they drag their bags of soccer clothes with them!