If only my 18 year old self could read this

I graduated high school on May 22nd, 2011. I straightened my long hair, put on a new dress, and did a quick prayer that I wouldn’t trip in my heels walking across the stage. I felt excited, nervous, ready, and extremely unprepared all at once.

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I had a lot of plans for myself: I would go to college and be roommates with one of my best friends, and we would go out every weekend. I would become an RA, and major in special education with a minor in early childhood; I would get a job as a nanny or at a preschool, and I would graduate in 3 years with at least a 3.75 GPA. I would continue dating Cass throughout college, get engaged the spring of my junior year, and be married shortly after graduation, when we would move in together.

 None of that actually happened.

I did room with one of my best friends in high school… for one semester. We did go out and make friends, but I was terribly, eat-my-feelings homesick. I realized I was not one of those amazing, patient teachers that could work with special needs students all day, every day. I was unemployed for 6 months, finally got a job at Dairy Queen, and had co-workers that kept offering me drugs; I quit after three days.

My whole life was changing. My older sister told me she was going to be a mom, and my younger sister was preparing to graduate high school herself. I had a “breakup” with one of my best friends. I transferred schools, changed my major, moved back in with my parents… and got engaged. And planned a wedding. And was married and living on a farm with my husband before I even started my junior year.

 And I wouldn’t change any of that.

The point is that life after high school NEVER goes the way you think it will. If it does, you’re playing it too safe. Life will amaze you. Everyone has to experience it for themselves to fully understand, but hopefully this post will soften the blow. I asked a few of my friends for contributions of advice on life after high school, (sorry for all the clichés, but I swear they’re true!) and this is what I got:

“The notion that high school (or college for that matter) is the best years of your life is statistically bullshit. The average life expectancy is 80 years. You’re 18. You’re less than a quarter of the way done. The mathematical odds are very high that you haven’t even been at your happiest yet. So basically, even though it sounds cliché, just explore and take a couple of risks. You probably haven’t even found your hobby or met your best friend yet.”

My little sister is hilarious but wise. Listen to her.

“Life after high school is still full of the same drama.”

This is true. Mean girls are still mean, jerky boy are still jerks, and the world is full of dummies no matter where you go. Sorry, kids.

“The world won’t end. You will make new friends… and they will probably be better than your old ones.”

Yep. Sometimes, the only thing you have in common with your high school friends is that you go to the same school. Once that goes away, your relationship will fall apart. For some people (me, because I’m an emotional mess) that really sucks. For others, it’s no big deal. Just realize that it will happen, but you WILL be okay.

 “It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Whether you’re going to continue going to school or not, you’re out on your own and you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.”

In other words: life is hard. And expensive. And confusing. The key is to accept that, and dive head-long into adventures anyways.

 So seniors, enjoy your graduation. Take pictures with all of the people you still like. Make Pinterest boards dedicated solely to decorating your future dorm room. Save every penny you get. Write LOTS of Thank You notes. Prepare for your life to change… for the better.

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