All dressed up with nowhere to go.
It has been many years since I was in high school, but I remember feeling that was the best way I could describe my experience.
I had been waiting my whole childhood to live the life I saw on “Saved by the Bell” or “Beverly Hills 90210” (for all the kiddos out there, picture a beach-y version of “Glee” minus the stunning musical interjections and witty dialogue)… but my personal experience of high school offered me a discovery I believe others would be able to relate: The cruel reality about actually entering this period of time where your entire life is being shaped with virtually every decision is that everyone around you still treats you like a child. I can recall the critical consideration of which classes to enroll in and an awareness that achieving good grades would be more important than ever. These were some of the factors that made curfews and the lurking existence of parental supervision seem like I had been handed the keys to the car, but forbidden to put it in the ignition.
I embraced my alone time at lunch. Just me and my chocolate milk. This became my favorite time of day.
Aside from my disappointment in an inability to completely control my own life, the social structures in high school proved to be a difficult hurtle for me to jump at the age of fourteen. I was an introspective and quiet young woman, who used a motorized wheelchair and did not thrive in any of my classes. This made it difficult to stay afloat in an environment that required me to blend into the rest of the crowd if I was going to enjoy the refuge of friendship with my classmates.
Instead, I embraced my alone time at lunch. Just me and my chocolate milk. This became my favorite time of day. And slowly, my time in high school was focused on the future, life beyond the diploma. The next thing. Because of my dissatisfaction with the high school experience, I distanced myself from my reality and transformed into someone who was “too cool” for what was going on around her.
Whether high school is a time that you cherish or not, this time will act as a spring board, launching you into the rest of your life.
Friday night football games. Homecoming. Prom. Each passing day of high school is an epic moment ready to be captured for a portrait. Whether high school is a time that you cherish or not, this time will act as a spring board, launching you into the rest of your life.
I still have moments where I wish I could rewind the clock, go back and breathe in my surroundings. This is because of what I have learned in the ten years since I graduated. Although being in high school may feel like endless limitations with period bells ringing and brick walls as far as the eye can see, this time of life goes by faster than one can ever imagine. The structures and safety nets that come with being a teenager do disappear one day, and when that day comes, having a strong sense of who you are and what you want to get out of this life is the most essential part of one’s survival guide.
Know When to Shut Up
It is for this reason I’m dedicating my blog entries to saying all of the things I would tell the sixteen-year-old version of me. The first lesson: Know When to Shut Up.
About the Author
Anna is a writer and advocate – check out her blog: Anna Works…Let’s talk about employment, empowerment, and disability. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Rehabilitation Psychology from UW-Madison.
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