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I can picture myself on the first day of high school, waiting for the bus.
I wore my treasured dark purple shirt with the gray-and-purple flannel shirt over it. I didn’t paint my nails purple because I was afraid people would think I was weird.
I didn’t know what a hindrance it would be to find myself at the school, 140 new students and me, and only know one person from my middle school – and not someone I called a friend, really. The first few days … weeks … were miserable. I begged my mom to let me go to my “regular” school. She bribed me with clothes from Express. (This was 1996, after all.)
I didn’t figure out how to let go of all my shy and awkward until I was at least 19.
Then I see another mind-snapshot. I am sitting in my high-school graduation, which still frames itself as one of the best days of my life. Because I was done with high school. We had what simply must be the best graduation ceremony of all time. Our class band sang “American Pie.” The class officers scared us all by saying they were going to draw a name out of a hat to make a speech … but it was a ploy to get the ousted co-president on the stage to speak.
Other than the oppressive pain I felt from the fact that we had filed in wrong and the pile of flowers representing our newly deceased classmate ended up right by me … it was an awesome day. I hugged nearly everyone in our class, friends or foe. All rejoicing. I’m out of here.
I knew I’d talk to very few of them ever again. Facebook didn’t exist in 2000.
But that one more thing I wanted to tell myself in my letter was: it was worth it. Going to the small, magnet school. Feeling awkward and stupid for not getting a 1590 on my SAT … it was still worth it.
Learning Chinese, that was worth it. Making sushi in class, taking “field trips” to the Chinese grocery store, picking up M&Ms with chopsticks … well worth it.
Taking second? third? place in the International Bowl, all five wearing black and pink, feeling the sassiest I’ve ever felt in my life – that was worth it. Going with these same girls to the beach, watching eyebrows being pierced, fake tattoos being applied, dancing in a club – so worth it.
Realizing it’s OK to be intelligent and embracing a college life that would push me, not be easy – so worth it. I watched many peers who didn’t know how to write an essay or read a book critically in college. And I did.
So, high school self, suck it up and stop feeling sorry for yourself for going to a school with almost no drama program. Relish in the 10 languages offered. Love that you eat lunch outside, sit on the senior table, and everyone else is quirky too, whether they’ll admit it or not.
Trust me. It’s all worth it. One day you’ll learn that you’re not some invisible 14-year-old who wouldn’t wear purple nail polish. It’s OK that you were dying to leave high school. You’ll learn, simply, how to be yourself.