Monday, April 18, 2016

I Am Thankful for My High School Friends

So here we are. Away from home. Managing our own lives. Living the college life. It's everything people told us it would be: the parties, the classes, the freedom, the dorms. After the initial shock of the first few weeks of being away from everything that is familiar, college ain't so bad. It's our first taste of the adult life without having to fully dive into the workforce. The next four plus years are "the best years of our lives" or so every graduate ever has ever said ever.
Something people don't talk as much about is how much you will miss high school. Okay, not the dress codes or the strict rules, not the drama or the pettiness, nor the all-nighters and the useless group projects and worrying about getting into colleges. They tell you that you'll miss home and to savor each moment of your senior year, but it's usually said as an afterthought to how much fun college is and often, we don't listen to the warnings to cherish what time we have left in high school. I can't say with full honesty that I miss high school, but I certainly miss the friends and memories that I made there.
I went to a small religious high school where word travelled quickly. There was always some sort of drama going on with someone, and everyone knew everything for the most part. Those were the cons of a sixty-person graduating class. The pros however, were how bonded we were. The school fed this fake script of how we were in this together and we were all supposed to love each other and support each other and we never bought it. Year after year, we trashed each other. I'm making my school sound terrible but hear me out. I think that's what made us special. We bonded because we didn't take each other's shit--pardon my French. Yes, there was drama, but when it came down to it we were there for each other no matter what. We went through a lot together in our four years, and no one will be able to experience that but us. It wasn't ideal or picturesque or what we were force fed: community! All are welcome! Nice sentiments, just not us.
This is what made my class special. We hated each other, but we loved each other. Every single person really made me who I am today. Yes, college may be the best four years of some people's lives, but high school is such a formative and important time in our lives. As you can see from the smiles pictures above, we clearly had some good times. The grainy group selfies document our time in secondary education. Selfies taken in bathrooms before choir concerts and during a particularly ridiculous class. 
I'm not going to act like we're all friends now that we've trickled to our areas of the continent (and in some cases world) to pursue a college education. Not everyone in the pictures in this article are people who I talk to on a daily or even monthly basis. That does not change the experiences we had in high school. I made a best friend backstage while we were both going through heartbreak--with the same guy. Another friend was made after she asked me for a pencil in choir--even though I was extremely afraid of her confident and assured personality. My other best friendship evolved over the four years, from my being absolutely jealous and spiteful of her my freshman year to being completely supportive and proud of all of her accomplishments.
From the late nights after shows and choir concerts driving around town and meeting up with a bunch of friends at The Dutch Goose to get post-show fried food to the grande iced chais in between classes (or worse! during chapel!) at the Sharon Heights Starbucks. The bus rides to and from sports tournaments and the excitement when one of our teams was doing well and the entire school showed up to rally for them. I have specific memories of debating in parking lots of where to go next or driving to the top of a hill to just relax and think about life. The sunsets during Caroline's birthday from the Palo Alto resident-only park or singing American Pie on the drive home in the dark. The quick drives off campus to get lunch that wasn't curry (for the third day in a row). The late nights at Chuck's 24/7 donuts and the dinner parties where we mostly just hid and watched movies after getting out food.
The parties when parents were out of town that got out of hand (in retrospect hilarious and still completely infuriating) and the faculty talent shows that were actually fun to go to. Year after year pops concerts that never turned out quite right and fall concerts that were the least looked forward to event of all year. The weird assemblies that were super pointless but absolutely the best part of the week like the hypnotist who managed to embarrass all of our friends. The joy of the annual dodgeball tournament and March Madness. Spirit Week and the relief of field day and Lulu's burritos. Running to Robert's after school to grab a sandwich (that always took too long to make) and hoarding candy from the sweets aisle.
The people I met in high school were some of the most mature and self aware people I have met in my entire life. On the surface--no, a lot of us were thoughtless, crazy, irresponsible high schoolers. I had the fortunate experience of being friends with most of the people in my graduating class, and getting close enough to some of them to see their most vulnerable states. Every person I saw who sat down for a moment and thought about the world around them were the smartest people I have ever seen. Smarter than most adults I see in the world. Smarter than those who might not be able to slow down for a moment in their lives.
I learned how to be a leader and I learned how to respect and stand up for myself. I learned about the world around me and to be thankful for what I was given. I learned that the things that seemed to be the biggest deal were probably absolutely not the biggest deal at all and that everything works out in the end. I learned to take the opportunities you are given and constantly search for new ones. I learned that there is not always a moral to the story, sometimes things just are, and sometimes things are not fair. Things will not always go how you want them to no matter how hard you try. I learned not to feel guilty for feeling sorry for yourself but to know where to draw the line.
I learned to realize that when most of the things that are hurting you are caused by yourself, change. I learned that you determine what effects you and how. You have a choice in how your life is lived. Whatever it is, it will pass. I learned to appreciate something in everyone, everyone has a life that they are living and there is something you can learn in everyone. There are two sides to every story and you should probably learn the other. Most importantly, I learned to feel and to feel without shame or fear. Feel the emotions that do not want to be felt and that you do not want to feel. Learn to understand these feelings, the mistakes you make and the success that you achieve, the people that hurt you have been hurt by others and the people that you hurt will hurt others. It is part of growing and living and learning. Question everything.
I learned these lessons in dark backstage corners and at loud parties with drunk teenagers. I realized these truths in cars and on road trips and on trampolines with burritos and ice cream. Not everything has to be a lesson or a cliché like I've listed above and that is somehow inherently part of the lessons. Not every heartbreak is going to help you with some lifelong meaning and not every shred of drama and gossip will make you a better person in the long run. But we can certainly try to learn from everything that happens to us. Life will frustrate us, it is meant to. We are on Earth to discover and to share and to live and to learn. I am so thankful for the moments in my life that taught me something and made me grow as a person and I am thankful for the moments that did not. I am thankful for all my frustrations and grievances and for all the things that make me happy and make me laugh.
Most importantly, I am so eternally grateful for my friends and those around me in my high school classes taught me and how they shaped me as a human being. I am proud of who I am and who I have become and what I have achieved just as must as I am proud of all of my high school classmates and what they have accomplished. I know we will go far. No one will ever be able to live the experiences that we lived, but to give insight into what my high school experience was like: Our senior song was Seasons of Love from Rent.

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