Things I Wish I’d Known When I Graduated High School

You haven't peaked, and life it so much bigger than it seems at the moment.

Those two facts are the crux of my essay, basically. I'm aware that everyone is the worst version of themselves in high school, but it's something that you just have to survive. Even if you think you escaped unscathed, we retain an essence of insecurity and competition and social fear that makes its presence known when you least expect it.

Maybe it never went away in the first place

I will caveat this by offering the slightly less fear-mongering assessment that high school isn't like it sounds like it might be in the movies. Some things are worse. Some are way way better.

Okay, ladies and gents, I'm going to say something possibly groundbreaking here: your high school experience will not be what you think it will. We no longer live (nor do I believe, did we ever) in the Mean Girls cinematic universe. The plastics may exist to a degree, but my first port of call here is to relieve all the graduates of any lingering assumption that people have the energy to be openly cruel anymore.

Again, I hear half of the world's population shout back at me about the very real issue of bullying, passive-aggressiveness, and peer pressure, but ultimately you likely won't have a Carrie moment of blood to the face. Generally speaking, most of the bullying nowadays is psychologically intensive, or at worst, simply careless – as reflected in my experiences at an all-girls' boarding school way back when.

Well, three years ago

So yes, while I don't pretend that my experiences are in any way universal or encompassing of the rest of my class, but I enjoyed my time at school. Yes, I'm one of those people that, in having been academically validated when I was younger, got a hankering for the shinny badges and wanted more. To set the scene properly for you, I'll tell you a little about myself: English major (RIP to all my maths teachers, I can only apologize), raised around London, and had about three growth spurts that redisposed me towards being around 6ft tall.

When I was about to start the first year of secondary school, I could be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be rough. The issue of 'fitting in' never particularly occurred to me as something that I might not naturally fall into because primary school tends to operate on the basis of 'everyone goes to the party, or you don't get a party' within the class.

Not so for secondary school, but also you don't notice half the time

Yes, when social media erupted when I was about 15, you do see parties on Snapchat, but it's not nearly the snub that the characters of Mean Girls thought. Indeed, it's only when I watch those drunken snaps that I wonder why I follow these people that I'm not friends with at all. But that's a discussion for the proxy-emotionalism of social media for later.

My point is that the films about girl's schools and high school, in general, make you think that everyone knows everything and cares about every mistake that people make. Maybe it was different having gone to a school in the UK as opposed to America, but people are so stuck in their own worlds and personal issues to worry particularly intensively about anyone else's.

In fact, it's the culture of self-comparison and competition with applications for University and internships and general academia that makes peer pressure such a crippling issue. It's our own fixations and worries that generally prompt the most unresolvable issues because we can't get out of our own headspace.

It's 2019, and we just don't care as much anymore

But something that I wish I'd known before it all started: it is okay to be yourself.

Maybe you reveal it over a certain amount of time with your friends and people that you trust, but that's how it works. Nowadays, the more interesting, niche personalities are fetishes in high school friendship circles above the sheep and Plastics of the Mean Girls era. Sure, some are still there, but most have, well… melted.

Wizard of Oz style, baby! Dorothy is quaking

Also, I wish I'd known that I wasn't the only one who got out of high school and didn't get to check out all the mental health issues I'd acquired during the process.

A letter to my anxiety would read very short and sweet, as follows:

First of all, rude.

Second of all, please leave me be. Just for a minute

I know that I'm not alone here in suffering from anxious moments, but it really can feel alienating, bewildering, and frankly out of control to not know what's happening from one moment to the next.

It's not just mental, emotional, or psychological, either. It manifests physically in a big way. Twisted stomach, indigestion, vomiting, and all manner of bladder-related complications. These are things that we learn to live with as part of life – we never stop to think of them as symptoms that manifest as part of anxiety – something that might be treatable.

Something that the everyday person doesn't have to think about – it can consume us. As with all forms of mental health, it deteriorates, often without reason or cause, and that can be the most frustrating. When you look around yourself, and on paper, life is good. You have a job, a partner, a selection of hobbies that you're pretty sure to satisfy you. And yet.

To the me of 2010 when I was starting out:

It's okay. You get out. And you can go so much further than were you are straight out of high school.

Go get 'em, tiger.