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It’s a strange feeling, walking through the linoleum halls of a high school you never thought to step foot in again. There’s the smell of sweat and rubber— the building’s first ever attack on your senses. Sensory attacks to follow would include anxiety over making friends, despair over grades and paralyzation over your post-secondary future. Long story short: you made it out alive with far less nervous energy than your pre-pubescent self. But you see kids in the hallway trudging or scurrying— shoulders hunched and fidgety— and wonder if they feel the same as you had. You wonder, if I had the chance, what would I assure my past self about teenagehood?

How we spend our days is (honestly not) how we spend our lives

  • You will live your life in seasons. It’s okay to have a lull in areas of your life at different times— whether that means fewer hangouts when you’re consumed in a major project or putting menial effort into assignments when you’re dedicating time to friends. 
  • Carve out a balance between homework, people and personal health. Practice recognizing when you need to shift focus. 
  • School should be one of your top priorities, but if you want to protect your mental health, it can’t be everything. 
  • The first couple years of high school are when you’ll have the most freedom to make friends, take risks and have fun.
  • Most universities look at your Grade 11 and 12 marks. Start preparing post-secondary options the summer before Grade 11 to optimize the courses they’ll assess.
  • Once post-secondary applications (if you choose to apply) are over, take more time to spend with your friends— make senior year memories!

Love is dumb— you don’t have to be

  • I totally regret not telling my crushes I liked them in high school. It makes a way better story to have confessed rather than to have kept it to yourself.
  • Figure out if you can depend on someone before you fall in love with them. 
  • I know you have a saviour complex, but do NOT fall in love with someone who needs to be saved. Keep an eye out for someone you can grow with.
  • If you aren’t listening to me, just let oxytocin run its course. 

How to make better friends

  • Let everyone go and focus on yourself. Learn what YOUR values and interests are (before someone else decides for you).
  • Be open about your values and interests; find a way to get the message across about who YOU are.
  • Put yourself in situations where you can meet people with similar values and interests. Attend clubs, classes, dances and parties. 
  • Don’t waste time with people you don’t vibe with deep down!
  • If you’re talking to someone you want to be friends with, try to make the conversation about them. Make sure they’re also someone who tries to make it about you.

How to be a better friend

  • Always say “hi” to someone you’ve met.
  • When you want to, make the first move to hang out.
  • Let the people you can’t see often know you still care about them (if you still do).
  • You don’t have to “be yourself” in front of everyone, but try to find the few people who you can be your best self in front of.
  • You probably won’t find the right friends right away, but you’ll learn about yourself through each person or group you don’t align with.

How to write solid post-secondary and scholarship applications

  • Maintain good relationships with teachers you look up to. You may need them down the road to be your references or to write you letters of recommendation.
  • Join and commit to a few extracurriculars you can put substantial effort into.
  • Get a job, whether part-time or in the summer, as soon as you’re ready. Write down your accomplishments from that job to use in future resumes.
  • Pro-tip for writing application essays: frame your personal narratives as experiences you’re grateful for rather than achievements you’re boasting. Did you start a successful Zine club? Write about the teacher who sparked your interest in Zinemaking.
  • Writing with gratitude can make you sound much more humble. We are a product of the contributions of other people— never forget that. 
  • Walk your reader through the results of your contributions. Were you able to distribute the Zine school-wide, fostering a community of local student artists? Make sure the admissions board knows! 

How to deal with high school cynicism

  • You may feel “out of it” quite a bit in high school. Understand you’re going through puberty in one of the most stressful environments you’ve probably experienced thus far. 
  • For my peers and I, self-deprecating humour and sad music were our emotional bread and butter. Those definitely validated our feelings, but in high doses, they’ll ultimately contribute to a vicious cycle of cynicism. 
  • It will feel like no one gets you. Do you understand the reasons why you’re feeling the way you feel? Maybe you’re neglecting your social life or struggling in school. Can you prioritize finding resources to cope with those particular stresses?
  • There’s a long road ahead to undo student cynicism, which can begin with self-compassion. Tell yourself it makes total sense for you to feel what you feel and to be exactly where you are. 
  • Gratitude can be a powerful weapon against dark moods. An effective strategy is to practice writing up to 10 things you’re grateful for each day.

If you’re a creative person (good luck)

  • Put what you make out there, even when you’re afraid it’s flawed. Don’t be afraid to put what you’re proud of on a platform.
  • Accept compliments graciously; don’t downplay your talent.
  • Don’t believe things have to be clear before you act because things often won’t be— they get clearer through action and practice. 
  • Focus on as few projects at a time as possible. Don’t spread yourself so thin you can’t put your full effort and creativity into your most important pursuits.
  • Finish your pursuits. If you’re taking on big projects, there will be a lull when you aren’t as excited as you were at the initial stage of inspiration. If you want to pursue your craft, commit to finishing what you started.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of everything I knew and wished I knew in high school. Remember to congratulate yourself often— when you land your first job, pass a math class, or put together a killer first day outfit. Every milestone is worth being thankful for. Wishing you luck, good grades and great memories!

🏫 Related: 3 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE HIGH SCHOOL
Nikita's hipster high school teachers sparked her love for slice-of-life podcasts, books, and movies. Filling up her free time with introspective conversations and journal entries, she'll do whatever it takes to make sense of life. One day, she hopes to write stories for the screen, the radio, or for print. On the side, she bakes and plays the piano mediocrely but passionately.
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