Teen Survival: 4 Things I Would Tell My Younger (High School) Self

By Marisa Houser

There have been countless times when I have cried and cried over fights with friends, been an outright bitch to my family (because I was more focused on what I had going on), changed my looks to be like someone/something I’m not, and much, much more.

The dilemmas, not only in high school, but in young adult life, can seem so earth-shattering that it is hard to actually listen to the advice given to us in the midst of whatever situation we may be in.

But, there are some things that no one had ever told me while I was experiencing all the ups and downs of high school. And as a striving-to-be self-actualized Millennial, I think I finally have the privilege to explain to others what I believe are some of the most important priorities to keep in mind when navigating the harsh terrain of high school.

1. “We hurt those we love the most — the ones we shouldn’t hurt at all.”

It is, unquestionably, the biggest understatement to say that familial relationships are the last of your concerns when thinking about your own life, and even more so, your future. This is how I see it — your family knows you, and I mean, REALLY knows you. There are no little quirks in your personality they haven’t uncovered yet, no way to hide who you are and make them believe you’re “cool” or “trendy,” and why would you ever care about getting them to like you more; they already love you unconditionally (whether it seems like it or not). Therefore, we take them for granted. They are always there, and always will be, and yet we sweep them under the rug and go on about our own social agendas.

Our families are always there. Shouldn’t this be the reason for us to treat them with utmost respect, love, and compassion? And yet, during these four, hazy years of high school, we want nothing to do with them.

No matter what stress you may be under in that short-lived moment, your family will be there for you long after that dilemma has gone away, and just as quickly as it came.

And although the petty issues in your life will become a continuing cycle, the way you treat your family will leave much more permanent reminders of your appreciation for them, so be sure to nurture those relationships first and foremost. Believe it or not, these friends and other people who may seem central to your scope of importance now, will fade and become a blurred memory, whereas your family will be your support and backbone throughout your lifetime.

2. “To thine own self be true.”

I did not know who I was up until maybe a year ago. I fell for anything, followed anyone, lied whenever convenient, gossiped whenever it seemed necessary (always), and never questioned why I was doing these things and who I was hurting. I like to think that that expansive time in my life, all the mistakes and fights I created, were to teach me what not to do the next time around.

I never really realized that I wasn’t being myself, because, to be honest, I didn’t know who “myself” was.

My happiness became dependent on other people’s opinions of me, and so, I would act upon what I thought was making them like me.

For example, if I was talking badly about someone with another person, I would go over the top to make them laugh or just agree with their opinion. But, as they would then see me doing that with other people as well, I was labeled the “shit-talker.” I wasn’t looking at myself in regards to the big picture of what makes me who I am, rather, I was living each moment to please whomever it was I was appealing to.

I felt as though I was well-liked, when in actuality, I was not.

I’m not saying it totally matters if people like you. I’m also not trying to give advice on how to make yourself better-liked. I am simply pointing out that I was ignorant regarding what I believed in and what my morals were, and I was living a shallow life that was only structured around making me seem “cool.” When really, my actions spoke much louder than my words, and people saw how I was not being genuine.

And so, after a rough junior year of cleaning up all the bad mistakes I had made, I FINALLY discovered who I am.

Thinking back brings me to this question: Would you rather have 500 friends who like your profile picture, Instagrams, etc., but secretly talk badly about you? Or, would you be completely content with 5 friends that love and accept you for who you are?

My answer to this question would have been very different if answered in my sheltered yet flirtatious middle-school stage, my ignorant, wannabe freshman stage, my “I’m a bad-ass” sophomore stage, or my self-absorbed junior stage.

But today, I can proudly say, I have a small, close-knit group of  friends, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the “likes” in the world.

3. Be genuine.

If you say you don’t like something, then don’t like it. If you say she’s your best friend, then speak of her as if she were always listening to you. If you can’t afford what everyone else is wearing, then rock what you do have and want for nothing more. If you have an opinion about someone, make sure you would be able to defend that same opinion to the person if they had overheard you, rather than denying your own words.

Stick to who you say you are, and figure out what about yourself  you are not being true to, and CHANGE it.

This is the true key to self-fulfillment when confined in the petty, immature, barriers of adolescence.

4. “Why can’t we be friends?”

I would have to say that my biggest regret regarding the past four years of my life would be allowing the “status quo” to rule over what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be friends with.

I strived to maintain friendships, most of which didn’t even end up being genuine; and I overlooked all those whose friendship that could’ve been.

Why is it that I wanted to be friends with the cookie-cutter personalities, the girls and guys that came in a handful, not truly unique, all wanting to seem “in”? And those people who are unique, are viewed as the weirdos, the outcasts, the laughed-about ones.

But, that is exactly why high school can be such a cruel place.

We group together with like-minded people, with the same interests, same concerns, etc., and then look down upon everyone else, creating what I call an “invisible barrier”.

Up until my senior year, I did not realize what amazing benefits I could get out of being friends with someone who was different from me, someone who was a little quirky. I realized that these people are the ones you truly learn from.

Those who are different from you can show you things your primary friends cannot, because they aren’t the cookie-cutter personalities you’re constantly surrounded by.

Before, I wanted to be in a group purely because I didn’t want to be left out of events where “friend groups” were expected to go together. I wanted to be included in a graduation dinner with friends, dance/prom groups, wearing senior shirts, etc. But now, if I could have it my way, I would be a “floater.” I would only be friends with those who truly liked me and appreciated my company. I would float around, without those restricting, invisible barriers, and find friendship in anyone, no matter what group they were in.

 If I were to go back and do something over, it would be to make friends, genuine friends, with anyone I wanted, and NOT judge them based on their social status.

So my advice is this: When thinking of another person, ask yourself: “Why can’t we be friends?” If the answer is based off of shallow truths and your own image’s reputation, then there is no true reason holding you back. The key to high school happiness is not to stop yourself from branching out to experience those things you really want and to engage with those you really want to get to know.  Just go for it — and I guarantee you will have the high school experience you truly deserve.

Marisa Houser is a graduating senior from Deerfield High School. She manages a blog website targeted toward the Millennial generation, discussing her insight and perspectives on how to live a humble, authentic life in today’s society. www.talkinboutmygeneration.co

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