This week, my little girl started high school. My little girl with the Shirley Temple curls, the little girl who could bat her long eyelashes over her big blue eyes and charm anyone. My little girl who seemed to become a teenager overnight.
1. Now is when you’ll find your tribe. Either that, or your tribe will find you.
You’re going to be exposed to many more people than you’re used to, and while it can be overwhelming, the good thing about more people is that there are more chances to meet people like you. Introverts or extroverts. People interested in art, or car repairs, or computers, or baking. People who like to learn languages, and those who stick more to science and math. People with a strange sense of humour, and people with no sense of humour at all. There will be more diversity than you’ve ever experienced, and the good news about that is that there will be more people with whom you have things in common.
And if you don’t find them, chances are that they will find you. I still remember sitting outside my homeroom on the first day of my Grade Ten year. I was stunned when a girl that I’d barely ever spoken to the year before came up to me and just started talking. Twenty-something years later, your “Aunt” Michelle is still one of my very best friends.
2. Popular doesn’t equal nice, but it also doesn’t equal mean.
I won’t lie: I wasn’t exactly the prom queen type in high school. I wasn’t “Carrie” either, but I kind of fell into that grey zone in the middle where the vast majority of us tend to end up. I always resented the popular kids – the ones who ran student council, and never seemed to have any problems. A few of them teased me, but most of them just ignored me – or at least that
was how it felt.
But you know what? In the years since high school ended, I’ve had a chance to get to know a few of those people, and they weren’t who I thought they would be. Most of them were shocked to know how I felt back then. A few of them are still kind of jerks, but the majority aren’t the people I thought they were at all. The truth is, everyone has their insecurities, and “everybody’s got a story that could break your heart” (That’s Amanda Marshall. Google it; it’s a good song.) You can never know what’s going on in another person’s head and heart, so just be nice to people, and try not to worry about what everyone else is thinking.
Similar to the above, good looking doesn’t equal nice, or kind or smart, and it also doesn’t equal stupid or mean. Get to know someone before you decide to get into a relationship. I learned that lesson the hard way, and I really hope that you won’t have to.
3. Now is the best time to experiment with who you want to be.
I’ve never really understood the adult world’s obsession with appearance, and looking “professional.” I’d rather have a doctor with tattoos and piercings who knows what they’re doing than one dressed in a suit who should never have gotten into medical school in the first place. But unfortunately so far, I’m in the minority.
But in high school, all bets are off. You want to dye your hair black, wear all black, write deep dark poetry? Sure. Go for it. Want to wear babydoll dresses and heels? Sure. Want to dye your hair blue and have a fauxhawk? Wear green lipstick every other Thursday? Sounds good to me. You want to try acting, be in the Medieval Reenactors Club or write for the school paper? Be a science nerd, or a band geek, or a political activist. Be a cheerleader, or fight to play on the boys’ football team. You want to take up the oboe and play a ridiculously off-key solo in Phantom of the Opera? (Oh wait… maybe that was just me…)
Remember, trying something new doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Take this time to explore and grow.
4. You will experience tragedy, but you’ll also experience joy, and everything in between. And it will all happen in the brightest technicolour you could ever imagine.
Everything seems bigger as a teenager. The highs are Mount Everest, and the lows are the Marianas Trench (the deep part of the ocean, not the band…)
When you get your heart broken, it will feel like the end of the world. Getting a bad grade seems like it will ruin your entire future. God forbid you get your period in the middle of class. And there’s absolutely no point in me telling you that it really isn’t as big as you think it is, because nothing anyone can say will convince you.
But when you’re on top of the mountain – when you’re in love, or you got the lead role in the school play, or you’re just having an awesome night with your friends – drink it all in and enjoy it.
And write things down. Instagram pictures are fun, but the thrill of opening a twenty-year-old carefully folded note that Aunt Michelle and I passed back and forth in math class is priceless. Text messages get deleted, but yearbooks full of inside jokes are forever.
I know you’re excited, and a little bit nervous, and so am I. But I can’t wait to see how the next four years goes. I believe in you, and you’re going to have an amazing time!