Just please remember this one thing for me. Your version of anything does not have to look like anyone else’s version. You do you. Okay?
Hey, sweet freshman. Take a big, deep breath. I cannot even tell you how many smiling faces would love to meet you and how many incredible teachers are going to look out for you. In a couple years, you’ll more than likely be ready to graduate and leave, if you aren’t already. And, truly, that is more than okay. Just remember that the smiling faces are here to get you through.
Hey, super genius future valedictorian. It took me a long time to realize this, but take the hard classes. You know, the ones that kind of scare of you, the ones you’re worried will bring down your GPA? You probably won’t be number one anymore… but you will be more prepared for life after high school. You’re not going to make a 100 in AP Chemistry; take it anyway. It’s the right decision. I promise.
Hey, Christian student. Please remember that your faith is not dependent upon whether you go to FCA or CHILL. Christian friends are great, but they’re usually the worst about pressuring you to make your actions and beliefs look a certain way. Make friends with people who don’t really believe what you do. They’re not horrible influences; they can actually be some of the greatest people you meet. Remember, if your faith doesn’t look like the other Christians are telling you it should, THAT’S OKAY. (It’s actually a whole lot more than okay.)
Hey, precious angel boy of fall. You are one of my favorite people to ever exist, simply because football players have been my home throughout high school. Do me a favor and remember that you’re more than the heartthrob who turns out to be a jerk. Even if that is you, you can be something more than that. Every football player I know is. Be kindhearted and caring and genuine like them. I’ve learned that saying this doesn’t make it any easier to believe, but I’m going to say it anyway: dropping passes, missing tackles, and getting hurt are okay. Those things don’t, and they never will, define you.
Hey, tired procrastinator. I feel for you. I really do. We all know it’s not smart to read The Scarlet Letter in one night when you had a month to do it. (Yet, we all do it anyway.) You will survive all of your late nights only to continually follow the same pattern of homework behavior. I’m not necessarily advocating procrastination, but no matter what teachers and parents tell you, it’s totally fine. If you can do it in one night, go you! I hope you get some sleep soon, though, and believe me, you will learn to love the teachers who force you to turn things in a little at a time.
Hey, sad and confused classmate of a student who died. I hope you never have to experience this part of high school. But, my class did. I don’t really know what to tell you except that I hope your student body comes together like mine did. Talk to each other about it. Cry together. Notice the way the whole school overflows with love from all possible sources. It’s hard, and I’m so sorry. Some things will never be the same again; things as simple as seeing the number 51. Don’t be afraid to embrace the love and friendship. Don’t be afraid to feel. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to let it change you. Let yourself grow, and remember your friend each time you love a classmate a little bigger because of him or her.
Hey, responsible and dedicated kid who always has the notes and homework. Some nights it will be beyond frustrating to wake up at 2:00 am to a text message asking for lecture notes that a friend lost. Wake up and send them anyway. Some mornings nothing will be more irritating than getting a call asking to copy your homework in first period. Let everyone copy it anyway. Some evenings you’re going to want to stress-cry as you try to get your own work done while ten other people need help with theirs. Help them anyway. One day, you’ll look back and smile at all the times you did work for the whole group and typed out your notes to send to a friend. It’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
Hey, incredibly entertaining class clown. On behalf of students everywhere, I want to thank you. Thank you for sacrificing a teacher’s high opinion of you so that you can provide comic relief to the masses. Thank you for making classrooms a place of joy and laughter. Thank you for always being the one to find a way to bring everyone together, even if it’s just for a small moment of shared delight in a joke. Don’t ever stop.
Hey, high schooler. It’s crazy difficult to live in this space between adulthood and still being a kid, but I’ve found that accepting it as a temporary home helps. It’s a good place to unpack, and it’s a good place to experience life alongside people who understand. Find friends who constantly fill you up with encouragement, honesty, and simple reassurances that there’s someone who understands. I promise they’re out there, probably hiding in people you’d never see yourself loving to pieces. That’s where I found most of mine.
Be an encourager, a friendly face to the people who don’t see a lot of them. The goal is for high school to be somewhere in between the best and worst times of your life. Try to do things that pull people more toward the best than the worst. I know it takes more effort, but having real relationships with your classmates is infinitely better than having surface level, synthetic friendships. You won’t be able to invest in quite as many people, but the real investment is more than worth it. People are so wonderful and worth knowing, and I can’t stress how important it is to have people you can go to for more than the latest gossip or a question about the homework. You’re going to need people you can call crying, people who let you vent, people who see all of your rough edges and love you anyway.
It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to accidentally look dumb in front of everyone. It’s okay to value your own needs, and it’s okay to value the needs of others. It’s okay to completely stress out, and it’s okay to learn how to relax. It’s okay to apologize when you mess up, and it’s okay to accept apologies without considering whether or not forgiveness is deserved. It’s really all okay, and I hope you find that you are able to rest in that knowledge. I hope you give yourself days to catch up on REM sleep. I hope you find at least one aspect of high school that you’ll miss when it’s over- a person, a book, a sport, a feeling. I hope you experience growth. I hope you let any regrets you may have change you for the better, and I hope you never forget that you are capable, brave, and significant. I hope you set goals that will make you excited to leave and make friends that will make you sad to go. I hope you learn at least one thing from a teacher that you will carry with you forever. I hope you take a step toward becoming someone of whom you would be proud. I hope you discover places you can find peace, hope, joy, and love, even if that’s something that changes later on in life. I hope you make room for differences. I hope, with all of my heart, that in each season of your life (but especially throughout high school), you have someone who is willing to listen to your jokes, cheer for you, pick up the phone at all hours of the night, send you homework, and help you make it. And, if you are ever in need of one of those people, I hope you come find me.