The myth of the "High School Experience"

May 4, 2023

The time has come for my final blog. And still, despite this being the end of my time at BB&N, despite all the enjoyable classes, friends, football games, and research papers, one question remains: What is the high school experience?

On the surface, this is an easy question to answer. High school, after all, can be a period of “firsts”: our first love, first exam, first sports game, first friend group. Around us, there seems to be an expectation that most of our teenage life consists of an extensive list of “firsts,” forever epitomizing the high school experience. Yet, in my case, at least, many of these “firsts” were hardly met.

Perhaps a few of these expectations come from the stereotypes perpetuated through Hollywood. From Mean Girls to High School Musical, the “High School Experience” is documented through the lens of an average teenager who, one day, has some epiphany or coming-of-age moment that completely alters the course of their life. Whether discovering a way to love themselves, embracing their genius, or finding a life passion, by the end of a movie, it appears as if these teenagers have it all worked out.

I envy them. While I plan on majoring in politics and government, the question of what I will do with my degree still needs to be discovered. Will I be a lawyer? Will I study abroad? Do I want to work at the White House? I’m still waiting for that coming-of-age moment or big epiphany.

My mindset eventually changed when I drove home one night, complaining to a friend about my disappointment over never achieving the “high school experience.” Well, to my surprise, she agreed with me!

“There is so much I haven’t done,” she explained, after which we chuckled at our younger selves who, four years ago, had created a list of things we both wanted to accomplish in high school (only a third of which were achieved).

So, what is the high school experience? While it is a period of immense discovery, it is also a period where we must come to terms with and face the unknown. Yes, it is scary. Yes, it is a challenge. But, in any situation, fearlessness can be so much more rewarding.

Most importantly, if someone reading this blog post is in the final months of senior year (like me), forget the “what if’s”! Forget all the regrets, the guilt for not staying up until midnight to study for that one test, those missed football games and social events.

Rather than putting so much pressure on achieving the High School Experience, I am now fully content with living in the moment, unconcerned with the fears of a mythical and overly idealized version of my high school self.