In addition to building hard skills (think writing a resume and creating a budget), THRIVE supports students in building necessary soft skills, such as self-awareness and considering the impact of our choices. Check out this thoughtful reflection on the purpose of high school from Ethan.
The Purpose of High School (by Ethan)
High school is one of the biggest moments in a teenager’s life. From freshmen to senior year, there a ton of fun activities that teenagers can experience such as sports, clubs, and school dances. Like everything, however, there are downsides of being a high schooler. The endless homework assignments, difficult tests, and stress of trying to balance everything in one’s schedule is just the start. Especially in today’s competitive environment, with grade grubbers and pressure from parents to be “the best”, it seems almost impossible to survive the 4 years of high school. But under all that stress, high school offers plenty of opportunities that students often overlook.
I admit that I was never really a social guy. I guess it’s because I feared the pain and rejection of not meeting other people’s expectations. When I bridged into high school, I thought I could create a new identity. As much as I tried, I could not make the genuine or meaningful friendships that I had hoped. As a result, I found myself depressed and struggling to understand what was wrong with me. I would walk through the hallways by myself, looking down at my phone because I was afraid to show my face. Practically every lunch, I would sit in one of my teachers’ classrooms and work on assignments for other classes to get ahead of the game.
What I lacked in social behavior, I made up for in academics. I think that this was my saving grace and natural gift that God had given me. Since elementary school, I never disappointed my parents because my grades and test scores were stupendous. Skipping the 1st grade didn’t help either because my future was now set with high expectations. My parents wanted me to be a well-rounded student because it would make me look the most desirable and qualified applicant for college. In addition to being a 4.0 student, I professionally ballroom danced, played soccer, and played baseball since I was 7 years old. To top these off, I recently became an Eagle Scout, which is by far my biggest achievement. People call me the poster child and assume that I have my whole life planned out. The thing is, I still found myself unhappy early in high school because I worked so hard for a goal that lacked what I desired the most. I truly wanted friends and tried my hardest to be a likable person.
What I learned from sitting alone all the time was that I chose to be isolated from others. Therefore, only I could put myself back out there with other people in order to make friends. I started to join service-oriented clubs, play on sports teams, and even go to school dances. These activities not only allowed me to de-stress from school and make new friends, but they also allowed me to be myself. All this time, I felt like a bird in a cage who couldn’t use my wings to fly. By having the courage to meet new people, I was able to see the good sides of high school and enjoy my teenage life. And surprisingly, I now consider high school to be fun. It’s just sad to see how fast it’s moving and how short the 4 years really are.
If there’s one thing that must be learned from my experiences, it’s that you must be yourself. I tried to live up to my parents’ expectations and ended up closing myself off from other people. I tried to fake my personality to make friends, but was ultimately unsuccessful. What I didn’t try was being true to myself. I can’t emphasize how important it is to be yourself because living a facade will not grant personal happiness. Even if you don’t make friends the first try or score 100% on every test, it’s not the end of the world. Experiencing failure and rejection is what makes us human. In order to move forward, we must reflect on our mistakes instead of shying away from them. Life is a process, and high school is just a stepping stone, so be patient and have faith that everything you do will be great.