yet another open letter to high schoolers

Hey guys,

So, as we all know, high school is a strange beast. We can all agree that we pretty much hate it and love it at the same time all the time. It gives us friends and ways to fill our time, it pushes us and challenges us, it makes us feel accomplished, but it takes up what feels like all of our time, and seems to last an eternity, and we often wonder if, really, it’s all worth it anyway.

But hey, as of yesterday, we’re all another year older, another year wiser, another year underslept, and another year done wondering why we will ever need to know some of the stuff we suffered through this year. It’s a weird feeling, though, to be done. Things will never be this way again. People are leaving. People are coming. Time keeps moving. You’ll take harder classes next year. Those inside jokes will fade. Relationships will develop and change and morph and grow. The moments this year you felt like you were dying will seem like a walk in the park. You have to learn now to say, “I’m a freshman.” You made it to high school. “I’m a sophomore,” instead of being a freshie. “I’m a junior,” welcome to upperclassman-hood. “I’m a senior.” You made it. This is it.

For nine months a year, every year, our lives are pretty straightforward: you wake up obnoxiously early. You go to school. You do homework. Repeat. In the boringness of classes and the despair of staring at several hours worth of work at night, I think we all–myself included–forget that school is actually pretty cool, sometimes. Think about it. We have the privilege of learning. We literally become smarter. And more often than not, our friends are part of that. Our teachers care about us. Sometimes that’s hard to see. School is annoying, yes, but I’m sure, thirty years down the road, we’ll be so glad we stuck it out.

We need summer. I, like all of us, cannot wait to spend the next three months not learning. I’m going to catch up on sleep, to write, to watch a lot of movies, and waste a lot of time. We need this break so that we can do it all again, and honestly, I’m looking forward to next fall.

But first, summer.

There are about a billion open letters to high schoolers on the internet. To seniors, to freshmen, to whomever. There are thousands of people with advice and life lessons out there, even at school. But I know just as well as any of you that that gets old fast. How many of us actually pay attention to the encouragement and sage tidbits and commencements at school? It feels out of touch and unneccessary sometimes, I get that. Well, brace yourself, because I, as your totally unqualified peer, am about to do that very same thing.

Ready? Okay.

Let’s start with the class of 2016. You guys. You’re done. You made it. I’m proud of you.

You were great leaders. You guys were so enthusiastic about this school, and if you weren’t, you were at least involved. You were fun to be around. I know it’s said over and over and over again, but you really did make this school what it was this year. Pouring on the cheese? Yes. But really. I can’t fathom you not goofing off in class, hugging me, or just nodding in the hall. Some of you are some of my closest friends. It’s weird to watch you graduate, but I am so beyond excited for you. So:

Don’t forget about me in college.

Actually, don’t forget about any of us here. Grow. Make new friends. Embrace life with open arms. But don’t change who you are just because we’re not there. Do well in your classes because as much as it’s annoying, this is your life now. It’s still school. Be respectful to your teachers and intentional with your friendships. Be good roommates. Be diligent. Actually do your reading and don’t procrastinate. I really don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, because you know, I’m only a junior in high school. I can’t tell you anything. It’s probably nothing like high school. I know you guys can handle it. Keep in touch and tell me all about it.
To my class, the basically seniors, the class of 2017: we’re seniors, y’all. This is it. This is the greatest year of our lives, so they say. This is when stuff happens. We apply for college. We get a ton of responsibility. We are the big kids on campus.

Notoriously, it’s when all the scary stuff happens too. But for right now, let’s focus on the fact that one year from right this minute, we’ll be done. There are 525,600 minutes, give or take, until we’re done with high school. Make them count.
That’s what everyone says, yes, I know. The difference is, I’m one of you. I suffered through precalc with you, or English, or Bible. I’m scared of the name and the status and the bigness of everything, too. I cannot believe that we are seniors. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.
Let’s do good by this place, okay? I know we don’t all love it here. Honestly, there are some of you whom I’ve never spoken to. Ever. I know we don’t all get along and I know things are awkward and dramatic, but we should grow up. We could be so awesome. The seniors they talk about 30 years down the road. Let’s be those people. Let’s just go for it. Let’s be enthusiastic and encouraging, loud and fun, serious leaders, respectful, responsible, but also spontaneous. Let’s serve and love and be the best that we can be.
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but I hope it’s encouraging. I believe in us. We can be awesome. Let’s not pretend we’re gonna be as clean-cut and perfect as adults say we are. I know the drama going on. The impending couples, the doomed couples, you know. We’re gonna mess things up. We’ll have fights, we’ll clique up. This is high school, after all. But still, we’re a great class. Let’s rise above our teenage-ness and making senior year epic. It’s the only one we’ve got.
To the class of 2020, the rising freshmen: Welcome to high school! You’re beginning the craziest four years of your life thus far. Seriously. It’s insane. And it really is a milestone. Don’t listen to the jaded upperclassman who laugh at you because you’re “just a freshman” who doesn’t know what real work is. You do. Freshman year seems easy to us because we’ve done it. It’s still new to you, though…and that’s okay. It’s really not as bad as we make it sound. It’s actually really fun. So have a lot of fun. Take classes you enjoy. Don’t be intimidated. We’re here for you. You’re awesome. We love you. Crush high school. You got this.

The juniors and sophomores of next year, I know you probably don’t feel very important. I’m sorry no one ever treats you like you are. I can’t help that, other than in my own attitude. I’m sorry I’ve lumped you together in one paragraph like this, but I think your classes are very much a unit. It’s usually 9/10 and 11/12, but you guys have a very special role, I think. If the seniors define the mood of the year, you guys are the ones who make that happen. You cover for the laziness of the seniors and the greenness of the freshies. I’m proud of you. Have a great year. Sophomores, be good leaders and role models for the freshmen. Juniors, make JSB perfect! (no pressure)

To the new kids, people who have never been to this school before: this school is the craziest, weirdest place you will ever be. It’s quirky and strange and you will wonder if you will ever fit in. There’s an imperfectly syncopated rhythm that’s nearly impossible to find. You won’t be able to find your beat (or off-beat as it usually is). It will feel like a really long time. But know that we really want you here and that I promise you, you’re going to love it here, in all its insanity. It’ll take some time, but you’ll realize this is one of the best things you’ll ever do. Embrace it. Join what you love–audition for the play, go out for sports, small groups, get plugged in. The dorm is intimidating and confusing and you will be homesick. I can tell you, though, no one will love you better than your dorm. These people pour out their lives for you. Your dorm siblings will become some of your favorite people. Once you get used to it, the dorm, it’s awesome. Trust me. Point is, New Kid, it’s hard. You’ll hear all the adults say that the first few days. That said, coming off this year, it’s so rewarding. I’m here for you if you need me. But you’ll be fine. And you’ll be awesome. I really hope that you love it here.

To everyone: this school is great. We don’t always treat it like it is, but really, we’re so lucky to be here. And this school year, overall, was a good one. So, yeah, you guys. We did it. We’re done. We’re that much closer to the rest of our lives. Have a wonderful summer. Here’s to next year!


A High School Student




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