It is college scholarship time at my house once again, and last night I helped my daughter Kenna write this essay addressed to 8th grade students who are transitioning to begin high school as part of a scholarship application. I enjoyed reading it so much after it was finished, that I felt it should be shared. We all face transitions in life, I am trudging through one in my life right now, and these things are a good reminder on any journey. God has a path for each of us – he tells us so time and again in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorites, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When a God as big as that says that he has this, we just need to buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Attention, patrons! Thank you for your recent visits to our Middle School Exhibition thrills in Social Cliques, Peer Pressure, Locker Rooms, and the Haunted House of Puberty. Now, we would like to welcome you to the main event – the High School Experience. Please remain safely seated and keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle for the entire ride. Buckle up for the thrills of Club-mania, Cramming for Finals, This Staircase Leads Where? and our exclusive House of Mirrors – the Homecoming version. Don’t forget to check out our once in a lifetime culmination event … Deciding What You Want To Do For The Rest Of Your Life! Hang on and enjoy the ride!
Four years ago when I was entering high school, I never thought of it as an amusement park ride, but it certainly is a clearer picture for me now. There is nothing I can say to you that will give you some secret code to achieve personal and academic success in high school. This experience truly is what you make it, and your attitude set the entire tone. I can give you some hints that may help you survive the bumps along the way.
Remain Safely Seated: High school is a ride. It is ups and downs and loop-de-loops that will scare you, stress you out, make you want to vomit, and have you wanting to build a blanket fort and stay there all day. But it is only a few years out of your very long life. I promise no one embarrassing event, or one social media comment, or one broken heart, or one bad grade will ruin that life. So stay calm. This, too, shall pass. It has some pretty amazing parts along the way, so just stay seated.
Keep Your Hand and Feet Inside the Vehicle: You may not know yet what your high school vehicle will be – it may be your group of friends, your sports team, your theater class, your band friends, your lunch table, or any other random sorting of people who share something in common with you. You will have many vehicles throughout these four years, and my hope is that you go all in with each of them. Don’t just half-heartedly try something – jump in with your whole body – hands, feet, all your appendages! Try something new. Take the hard class and see how you do. Do something you were scared to do in middle school. Stay up all night studying for a test. Introduce yourself to a random stranger, and maybe even ask them to jump in your vehicle for the ride. It may be a life-long friendship waiting to happen. Just go for it – whatever it may be!
Enjoy the Ride: This is the most important thing I can tell you. Whatever you do, whatever classes you take, whatever friends you ride with, whatever struggles you face, whatever lessons you learn, just enjoy every moment. High School is a one way ticket that goes by very quickly, and as it comes to a close, you have big life decisions to make – ones that you will feel unequipped for and intimidated by. Don’t think about those yet. Enjoy the ride, whatever ride YOU choose with whatever friends YOU choose on whatever path YOU choose. I struggled with this one early on, and spent too much time worrying about what others thought of me and how certain people would judge me if I did this or said that. What I learned is that in the end, your true friends will be there, teachers really do care about you, no fashion choice will determine your popularity, you can succeed in any class you work hard in, and if you go through all that with a smile on your face, you win the big fluffy unicorn prize! (Okay, so there isn’t a big fluffy unicorn prize, but this is a metaphor, you know.)
I would say that for most students, their imagination (and maybe the stories their older siblings tell them) is so much worse than anything high school can throw at them. It is a ride: one you get on, grow from, and get off. Some of you will like it. Some of you will want to vomit. But success will look different to each of you, so buckle up and be ready to soak it all in and discover your own roller coaster.
Dina and Kenna Newsom