In my job, I get the opportunity to work around high school students. High school is a time in life when you start learning a lot about life on your own. It is where a lot of us learn about friendships, the first tastes of freedom or when you had your first relationship. High school is a lot of firsts and those, depending on how you choose to handle them, help prepare you for what is to come.
While high school is a time of learning about yourself, friendships and relationships, the scariest part about that is leaving it behind. It takes four years to build up a lot of what you have made yourself out to be as a student and young adult. Four years of making that team, quitting that club, getting through a breakup, gaining and losing friendships so once you reach senior year, you are cruising at comfortable. Your friend group is filled with the people who understand you most, you may be in a club you excel in, or you *finally* squeezed by with a passing grade in the class that was keeping you up at night. This is when you have the “I made it” feeling. It was a lot harder or easier than you thought it would be, but you made it. Just because you are here doesn’t mean you start checking out. This is where you finish strong.
By the time I get to know most student’s, they are in this sweet spot of senior year. I spend a lot of time talking with them about what is coming next. Our conversations are surrounded with the theme of change because this is when the comfortability of their past three years starts to shift to the unknown of life post high school graduation. Even though I am closer to my ten year high school reunion than I am to the year I graduated, I remember this feeling well. When I got to this point my senior year, I was ready to move on to college and leave high school behind. However, I was so anxious for a new chapter to start, I forgot to enjoy the time I had left.
If I could tell you one important idea to learn at a young age it is this, whatever is next for you is just as important as finishing strong where you are right now. Don’t wish time away.
If you are a freshmen, finish strong in how far you’ve gotten this year. A new school, harder classes and all the change that came with being the new kid on the block made this year seem like it may never end. But, you are almost done. Finish strong.
Sophomores, you are so ready to be an upperclassmen. Or maybe you’re just hoping you get asked to prom. This has been a weird year for you, I know. You’re old enough to know what you’re doing around school but not old enough to drive. It seems like everything you want is so close but still out of reach. That car, that freedom, that upperclassmen status is all about to be a reality. Finish strong. Don’t settle into the mindset of, “when I finally get _______, then I will be __________.” That is a statement rooted in discontentment. What is coming next for you is so fun but don’t miss out on where you are right now while you’re busy wishing yourself out of the present. Also, talk to your mom or dad in the carpool line. I know they feel completely lame and annoying, give them a break. They are tired and deserve, at the very least, an audible “good morning”.
To the juniors, this was my favorite year of high school for so many reasons you already know or have experienced. It is the first year you were able to drive to school and that really changed your life in many ways, I know. This is the first year you will experience prom if you choose to go, and please go to prom. Get dressed up, eat a fancy dinner, dance without the pressure of caring. Pro tip: no one looks back on prom and remembers how you danced. As a junior, you’re tasting a little bit of the freedom you have dreamed about for years. This is when things start to get comfortable. Finish strong here. And don’t wish away the curfew, I promise it is helping more than it is hurting you.
Seniors. It is so easy to check out here. I did. I checked out as soon as I received my acceptance letter to the only college I wanted to attend. I wished high school away so fast that I never really took the chance to realize how good the four years had been to me.
Finish this year strong, seniors. Go to the dances, games, hangouts, plan the spring break trip, visit one college, buy a yearbook, let your mom take way too many pictures of you in your cap and gown. Embrace these lasts so you can have the accomplished feeling of finishing well. Don’t look back on this year and the only memory you have of it is how much you wished it was over. Embrace whatever it is about who you are right now, because it is preparing you for what’s next. Finish strong, finish proud, finish with joy. Don’t push this time away. On graduation day, hug your parents and say thank you. Let your mom put your face on a big cake to celebrate your graduation party and let her take you dorm room shopping. I promise at this time next year you will be calling her for help more than you think. We never stop needing our moms.
We never know when a season of life will end, so we can only learn what it is like to be fully present in it. There is always something to learn about what is in front of you. The lessons I learned about myself in high school I still carry into my adult life. That cycle never ends. Next is always coming, but don’t let the wishing of what is to come keep you from embracing where you are right now.
I hope you choose to look back on these years and, at the very least, be able to laugh at your outfits because that crop top is not going to be as cute when you’re 25.
Let me leave you with this. There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes that I reference a lot and it has to do with time. I don’t know the context around it, but what it says is so simple and so good. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….a time to plant and a time to uproot.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. You are beginning to uproot and move on to plant something new. This is your time. I hope you aren’t missing it.