Nobody really tells you what it’s like to come home from college for the first time. It’s really, really strange. Over Thanksgiving break, I saw a ton of people I missed dearly and a handful of people I never need to see again. The first night I went out with everyone, I actually came home really upset. I wasn’t as excited to see people as I thought I would be. What gives? All my friends seemed super excited to see everyone, so why wasn’t I?
I think one big thing I have realized in my first few months of college is that high school doesn’t matter. Like, at all. Maybe your GPA and test scores matter for college admissions, but besides that, who cares? Nobody really wonders who your friends were or what your reputation was. Nobody actually cares that you were president of every club or that you did nothing but play video games after school. Nobody asks you about the times you were publicly humiliated or the moments you said something so mean you lay awake at night contemplating how to apologize. Frankly, the four years leading up to where I am now were irrelevant, and I guess that’s what I realized that week.
Now I’m home for a whole month. I left the new life I have worked so hard to create for the last four months and came back to one that just doesn’t matter anymore. The people I will be hanging out with for the next month will be people who know all the stupid, funny, mean, silly, amazing things I did in high school. I will probably revert back to my old habits and so will they. This is both good and bad news. I get to hang out with some of the most genuine, kindhearted people I know. I will be with people that know every single thing about me. I get to nourish friendships that took years to create. But on the flip side, I have done a lot of growing up since then. I like to think that I am not the same person as the one that stood on the steps of the Cathedral last spring in a cap and gown.
One of the things I realized during that period of growing up (which hasn’t ended and probably never will) is that high school is kind of a weird limbo where you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’re trying to figure out how to handle a limited amount of freedom but still meet the expectations that people have for you. There’s a lot of pressure to pour your heart into everything you do, be it sports, academics, or relationships. You are pulled in several different directions and are trying to please everyone.
In real life (at least for me right now), that’s not how it works. The only person you have to please is yourself. If someone doesn’t approve of your behavior, that’s their opinion. If you don’t work hard, that’s something only you have to live with. I spent so much time in high school trying to live up to everyone’s expectations for me. It was a harsh slap in the face when I realized that all of that effort was for nothing. I had wasted four years trying to impress others when the only person I needed to impress was myself.
Another thing I realized while being back for break is that those people that were often overlooked in high school are the ones doing big things in the world. Not one of the “popular” kids are doing much to contribute to society. And to think those were the people we so badly sought approval from. There are so many people from my graduating class that I barely knew about that are doing such cool things with their lives. Those are the kids we should have celebrated. The kids with ideas, the ones with intelligence, the ones with big dreams.
It makes sense that I got upset when I was home last time. I have changed and learned so much in these last few months that it’s hard to go back to a world like that. You see things in a new light after being away from it. You realize that you were really, really stupid but so was everyone else. So if you’re in high school and you’re struggling to be heard or meet everyone’s expectations, please just be patient. I promise you that these years will go by in an instant and you will move onto bigger and better things. Don’t burn bridges. Cherish your family and friends while you have them so close. But don’t worry about the things that happen because in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter one bit.