Even though my time in high school was cut short this year, I was still able to have great experiences and learned some pretty valuable lessons. Here are a few worth mentioning:

1. Put yourself first

This one is kind of self-explanatory but is much easier said than done. No class grade, extracurricular, or person at school should ever take priority over your well-being. It’s OK to fail on a test or even a semester grade. That just means you can improve, and colleges/future employers like to see that strive in you. Never hesitate about removing yourself from a toxic person’s agenda. There will always be repercussions when you do this, but it will never equal the peace you will feel afterward if you decide to prioritize your mental health instead. If you are presented with a tough decision and don’t know what to do? Think about how your decision will make you feel the next day, then the following month, and then 10 years from now.

2. Don’t tolerate fake friends

This is the friend who manipulates you into feeling guilty when you try to approach them about something and then refuses to take responsibility for their actions. They break promises, take advantage of you, and talk about you behind your back. Most of all, they don’t like seeing you succeed or branch out with new people. Don’t let yourself be manipulated. Remember, if they don’t listen to your needs, then they aren’t worth your time. Some people just aren’t meant to be friends forever. Even if you have done everything you could to reconcile with them and it doesn’t work out, who knows, maybe you both just need to do some growing before you reconnect in the future.  

3. Take classes out of your comfort zone

There is something to be said for taking advantage of what the school has to offer. Photography and wheel-throwing classes in college usually cost hundreds of dollars and that’s not even including the materials fee! OPRF offers both of those courses and so much more, so experiment and you will save money while also discovering new interests. During my junior and senior year, I decided to take Newscene and other media classes without knowing anything about them. Now I’m a political communication and journalism major. 

4. Actions speak louder than words 

One of the biggest realizations I had in high school is that whatever someone might do or say actually has very little to do with you. In fact, it almost always is a direct reflection of who they are as a person. This is a long-winded way of saying that you shouldn’t tolerate disrespect from anyone! If a person gossips about you, they are probably just desperate for attention from their peers because they have nothing better to offer! It’s all about perspective. The same goes for social media. If people post passive-aggressive stuff about you on Snapchat or Instagram, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are at fault. In fact, the person who posted that mean stuff is probably very insecure and is desperate for supporters. Don’t fall for them trying to get a rise out of you. 

5. Independence pays off

High school is a great way to learn how to be an adult before you are faced with the real world, so take this time to learn how to be a grown-up in every sense of the word. Whether it is choosing to be the bigger person in the argument or simply doing your own laundry, those skills pay off. Also, watch the news. Not just your usual sources, but get your information from a different news outlet every once in a while (make sure that it’s credible too!). Opening your mind to new ideas gives you a lot of power in a polarized society. From there, you can form your own opinion and people will respect you for it. Moreover, I learned to be intrinsically motivated. You’ll find out more about what you like to do by picking up random hobbies on your own than just accomplishing tasks for a grade. Your future employers and college admissions will be appreciative of it as well. 

6. Math is the worst subject

Try to prove me wrong. You can’t. 

7. No one is ever really paying attention to you

I wish I could have known this sooner, but you really shouldn’t care what others think of you because they aren’t that observant to begin with. Even if your peers don’t approve of you, the time you spend with them is very temporary, so focus on your life and stop worrying about whether or not people will approve of it. If I’ve learned one thing over the past few years, it’s that I’d rather be remembered as funny or weird than not being remembered at all. Standing out pays off. 

8. Find ways to make people laugh

Some of the best memories from high school include writing the morning announcements and stall street journal my senior year. It was always great to see people laughing throughout the school even though my work was really nerdy and slapstick. I was able to become good friends with the people in my classes just by joking around and showing them memes that were related to the classwork. Being goofy in high school feels rewarding because you learn to not take yourself so seriously all the time. It also shows that you can be vulnerable with people. 

9. Stop acting like you don’t care

Vulnerability is cool! Don’t be ashamed of putting your all into something and then choose to play it off like it’s no big deal even if it backfires. You have to learn how to be proud of yourself for trying, even if you don’t accomplish your goals right away. Besides, if you don’t find success in high school, you have the rest of your life to fulfill your dreams. 

10. No feeling or situation is ever permanent

Even if you found yourself repeatedly unhappy in high school, remember that it doesn’t last forever. Whether you are dealing with family dysfunction, friends leaving you for college, or whatever it may be, just know that everything happens for a reason. I’ve had a really hard time over the past few months learning to accept that my time in high school was cut short. However, I’m grateful that it happened because I am a much stronger person. It has helped me see all of the other amazing parts of my life and now I’m ready for what’s ahead of me. 

That said, it’s important to find stuff to look forward to. The day-to-day of high school can feel suffocating, so I recommend having a countdown for upcoming school events or vacations to keep you motivated. Overall, life doesn’t stop for anyone. Take this time in quarantine to remain close with your peers because, trust me, your time with them will not last forever. Whether your high school career was the peak of your existence or the worst experience ever, know the importance of taking it day by day.

Margaret Korinek is an OPRF graduate, class of 2020.

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