Recently I was visiting a group of high-school girls participating in a group study of Emily Jaminet’s and my book The Friendship Project for an author Q & A session. Towards the end of the session they asked, “If you could give your “high-school self” one piece of advice, what would it be?”
Having graduated from high school over 23 years ago, I had to pause for a moment to think. With my own son starting high school this fall, I had been thinking about that time in my life quite a bit lately and I thought of these five things I would advise.
1) Whoever said, “High school is the time of your life” hasn’t lived much! In fact, if I were able to re-live any part of my life, I would do any part except high school. While high school was a time of new beginnings, new friends, and lots of fun activities, it was also full of stress about grades and college, wanting to fit in, and a great deal of peer pressure. It’s a growing time, one of finding new independence, but also one of much insecurity. You have so much to look forward to in life; you can’t even imagine what God has in store for you.
2) Know who you are and be that person. I can still see the dot matrix printing on our 8th grade school newspaper that said, “Most likely to become a nun – Michele Krilich.” I don’t know why, but that bothered something deep inside me that everyone thought I was some kind of religious Holy Roller. I should have been proud, except I wasn’t. I came from a devoted family and my faith was important to me. I valued being a good person and making good choices. However, I didn’t want people to think of me that way, so I spent the next four years trying to be a cool kid, making popularity my goal instead of being the kind and good person that I knew I was on the inside. It was all a façade and, looking back, I would have been much happier had I been who I truly was, not some fake person I wanted to be.
3) Even though they seem ancient, your parents are right. My mom and dad told me that one day I’d look back and agree with them, but it was hard to see any value in their words back then. I remember rolling my eyes at what my dad would be saying to me as I ran out of the house on Friday night. Good advice is hard to find in high school. I took a lot of foolish advice from friends instead of listening to what my parents said. Now I pray as a mother my children heed my advice for their safety and well-being.
4) The decisions you make can have permanent results. Looking back, I did some pretty dumb things in high school. I made choices I regret making. However I got really lucky and nothing caused permanent or serious damage to my body (however, my soul was certainly stained). Every day you will be faced with big decisions and you know the path you should take. Take the less-beaten path; you’ll be glad later.
5) Make friends based on good virtues, not on frivolous qualities. I made some wonderful friends in high school, and some of my friends are still a part of my life, but many of them were what Aritstotle calls “friendships of pleasure,” and when the fun ran out, so did the friendship. St. Francis de Sales wrote on friendship in Introduction to the Devout Life, “Just listen to young people; they do not hesitate to conclude that a person has great qualities simply because he dances well, dresses well, sings well, chats pleasantly, has a fine appearance or is skilled in all kinds of games … Since all this relates only to the level of the senses, we can qualify as sensual those friendships based on such. They really deserve to be called amusements rather than friendships. Such are ordinarily the friendships among young people, stopping as they often do at such things as moustaches, hair, glances, clothing, attractiveness, small talk.” He went on to say that these “friendships which are but fleeting, melting like snow in the sun.” I’ve learned a lot about friendship in my lifetime, who to trust and who to run from. The best friendships I have in my adult life are the ones who are helping me grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ, not pulling me away from Him. Choose your friends wisely, and be a good friend in return.
What advice would you give to your “high school self?”
Copyright 2018 Michele Faehnle