The Most Memorable Piece of Advice I Have Ever Received

It’s been almost three years since I graduated high school, and over five since I received the most memorable piece of advice in my entire life.

In order to understand why this advice was so important to me, let’s rewind back to 2012. I was a sophomore at Saint Francis High School, and if anyone remembers high school, they know that sophomore year is a horrible time of awkward phases and trying to be cool. Honestly though, is anyone really that cool at 15 years old? In one of my efforts to fit in with the crowd, I purchased the same North Face jackets and UGG boots that every girl at school had, effectively making me indistinguishable from the other 250 girls in my class with the same outfit. I was so obsessed with trying to keep up with people who I had admired that I didn’t really know who I was. I was painfully shy, and had no courage to speak up and share my personality because I feared that I would be too “different” from other people. I was so afraid of rejection that I psyched myself out and made few friends all the same.

So now we have a picture of sophomore year Libby: shy, trying to fit in, and just generally one of those people who sits quietly in a corner. It really sets the scene for the coming-of-age tale that we know is soon to follow. The piece of advice that ignited the metamorphosis came from my Spanish teacher, who happened to also be the yearbook faculty advisor. One day, during class, she showed us a picture of the sophomore girls softball team and asked the class if we could identify one of the players who forgot to sign her name at the photo shoot. No one in my class could offer a name for the girl, and my teacher was severely disappointed. Clearly expecting an answer, she was shocked that by the midpoint of our sophomore year, we couldn’t identify one of our 450 classmates. She said in frustration the fateful words: “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t go through life without anyone knowing your name.” She then put the team photo away and carried on with the rest of class, not knowing the effect her words would later have on me.

To be honest, I didn’t use the advice right away; I went back to my Spanish notes and carried on with class the same way Señora Ciampa did. The next day at lunch, however, I noticed how few friends I really had. I had a couple of people to sit with and classmates to talk to, but I didn’t have a lot of genuine friendships. I realized that no one really knew my name at school, and I wanted desperately for that to change.

The first time I used my teacher’s advice felt like dipping my toe into the Arctic Ocean to check its temperature. I was terrified for all of the same reasons that I’d been afraid of all year, but this time I knew I was willing to risk it. I don’t remember exactly what I said to make conversation with the girl setting next to me in class, but I know it must have been super awkward. The only thing I remember is that she laughed and it prompted me to say another joke and another to make her laugh again. I had finally put myself out there and it had finally worked. I found out after trying the same thing in all of my classes that, shockingly, talking to people and joking around is a great way to make friends. I didn’t know I was funny, but after talking to people and giving them some of my best material, it turns out I am a pretty hilarious person when I actually say my jokes out loud.

By the end of the year, I had so many friends and I finally felt comfortable being myself. I had a group of people to laugh with and talk with, and most importantly, a group of people who knew my name.

Now that I am a junior in college, I am still thankful every day for the advice that I got during my sophomore year of high school. Even though I am in all of these social clubs now, I will always be a little bit awkward and nervous when I meet new people. However, every time that I want to retreat back into my shell and be anonymous, I just think of the advice that I got five years ago to never go another day without people knowing my name.