Short-lived stage: High school should be stepping stone in life, not claim to fame

If one thing is certain, it’s that there needs to be a instruction manual for incoming high-school freshman – how to do this, when to do that, what’s important and what’s not going to matter in ten years – because we all know that it would save everyone a whole lot of time and effort. Unfortunately though, there isn’t. Kids are left to learn manual-worthy lessons on their own; some lessons are learned by experience, some by association, and some simply by observance.

Over the course of four years, high school can fill that theoretical manual pretty full, but perhaps the most important lesson one could learn from that manual may not be realized until late in the high-school career, or even afterward: to not let high school be the center of the universe.

High school may seem like the most important thing in the world on a daily basis; we’re all guilty of placing too much focus on clothes, hair, friends, material possessions – heck, even things as trivial as trying not to make a fool out of ourselves while walking down the hallway. If a fellow student so much as gives a funny glance in our direction, self-esteem points become incredibly vulnerable. If we do something noticeable by more than a single person to embarrass ourselves, well, that’s a whole new level of humiliation.

But, in the midst of all the worrying, let’s not forget what echoes from parents whenever the high-school reunion years come around: they’ve lost touch with most, if not all, of those people. It may be crushing, but all of us will eventually have careers, and in most cases, no connection with the people we thought we were inseparable from in high school.

Though it’s a sad truth, that realization can actually allow a person to explore his or her surroundings and interests without worry about the thoughts or opinions of others. To put it simply, anyone can gain the ability to be different if he or she so chooses. If motorsports is a passion of yours and everyone calls you a redneck, don’t take it the judgements so seriously. Be different; do things that you enjoy even if others don’t consider those activities to be the norm. Go to an event that interests you rather than a party, even if you get told how out of the loop you are. The point is, what does it really matter anyway? The world is much more vast than the high-school universe, so go out and explore it for yourself.

If fitting in with the crowd is your thing, go for it. But give other things a try, because one day, parties and spur-of-the-moment decisions probably won’t be everyday, realistic options for most of us. Find your passions – not the passions of your friend group or your romantic interest – so that you may be able to chase those passions and potentially make a career of them.

Most importantly, don’t let high-school years become your legacy. If you’re banking on attendance at a popular event or material possessions to determine your popularity or success, life will deliver a wake-up call at some point. Life goes on after age eighteen, and there are many more years left to live after receiving a diploma; build up to a legacy rather than peaking in high school – it could prevent a fairly anticlimactic life.