I remember daydreaming about my first day of high school in the most over-the-top, dramatic way possible: it was battered with a Mean Girls rendition, infused with High School Musical spirits, sprinkled with Riverdale drama and topped with some Gossip Girl glam.
On the first day of 9th grade, however, walking in my bland, ill-fitted uniform, after a dreary 45-minute commute to Mirpur, I barely had the tolerance to endure it for 8 more hours.
Chaotic, confusing, depressing, monotonous, stressful, exhausting- our high-schools are anything but pep.
Even with the privilege of being a student at a renowned international school, there was no escaping the one-track education system that only believes in preparing candidates for a qualification, instead of fostering intellect and innovation. I felt like the prospect of my personal development was narrowing down to just my academic growth. High spirits, if any, were only felt by surpassing our peers, caught in a spiral of unhealthy competition.
Rebel Without a Cause
As mentioned earlier, if this had this been a rom-com or a chick-flick, I could start a rebellion and change the whole system; but what would I change it to? How would it be, going to school, just to hang out, play sports, solve mysteries and create the perfect chic romance, experiencing only the part that coincided with our expectations, without ever having to flip the coin? To this rhetoric, my mind went blank.
If you think you have found your “inner circle” while being at middle school, you’re up for a sad surprise.
As a young-adult, even the barest brightness seems like a promising spectrum, whereas the mildest inconvenience plagues the heart. People will start looking, behaving and talking differently- people you’ve grown up with would seem oddly distant. This isn’t an oversimplification, it’s a part of growing up: high school is a time we want to experiment our surroundings, test ourselves and find what we want from life, which may include taking up a new activity, making new friends, altering our appearances, etc.
Although the results are usually inconsequential, in the moment, everything feels like a new opportunity with a newfound vigor.
Since I had been in the same school for all of my childhood, adjustments seemed unnecessary to me. “I know all the students, teachers and staff” I thought, and this was my biggest error.
My experience was no different than that of a new student’s: we were all learning afresh.
At the end of the previous year, we were a squad of 20 people- 90% of the section; fast forward only two months, it reduced to 6, with each of us having an additional squad outside of it.
Prepare to be considered one among many. If you were the kid all teachers loved, you might be despised by the new ones for not keeping up to expectations and your peers, for being the “pretentious teachers’ pet”. Either ways, there’s no escaping the stereotypes.
Finding the Pep
So, how do we actually find the “pep”?
It’s not enough to know your O-Level/SSC subjects, which, to be honest, are empty vessels; no matter what you are told about the importance of these exams, the fact is that they are general qualifications for continuing your schooling further, designed to create an idea of the actual subjects. Some of my peers didn’t even choose their own subjects, their parents chose it for them, as deemed fit for their apparent career goals.
The emphasis on these qualifications, however, is a product of anxiety about the future.
In order to keep your mental health out of danger, it is important to devote some time to extracurricular activities, which do not only look nice on your university applications, but are a mode of recreation. You don’t always have to bring awards home, or feel crestfallen when someone else does; the end-goal should be to learn something new and have fun. As for myself, I took it as an opportunity to hang-out with my friends while doing something productive and also socializing with new people.
Pro-Tip: Do not decide your career yet. Unless you are a sadist who doesn’t like to explore, learn and experiment, your career choices will largely fluctuate in the course of those 4 years of high school. As you learn and experience new things, you might find “dissecting limbs” is not so fascinating after all, or that saving the environment is becoming crucial. You might even start to like algebra or might want to build your own robot. It is extremely important to let your mind float between various ideas and possibilities, which might not all lead to a single passage.
The first step to setting future goals is keeping an open mind about things, and letting your ideas float. Secondly, plan ahead about your career prospects, but don’t devote yourself solely to them; make a list of your hobbies, interests, skills and favorite subjects and arrange them in an ascending order, starting with what’s most important to you.
Then, gradually, you should set small targets; like, maintaining an attendance streak in class, or playing a sport at least twice a week, etc. If your goal is Harvard, Yale or any Ivy League for that matter, you should, of course, work towards it. However, you must not weigh your chances too high, keep at least a few backup plans.
An Eulogy to High School
I am Glad it’s Goodbye, Frenemy
Now that I’m in my senior year, with university applications and A Level finals looming over me, I don’t have much memories at school, because after 9th Grade I chose homeschooling, or what we call “Private”. I did experience it enough from outside to be grateful that I didn’t have to go through it. Strained friendships, falling grades, unsuccessful romance: I was part of all the drama that went down there, just not physically.
Much ado about nothing: regardless of what you might choose to be a part of in High School, remember to leave it right there. When you look back at graduation and prom, remember to let out a chuckle or two. Growing up is much more intimidating than this: you don’t get a chance to rectify. Your teenage years are something you shouldn’t be regretting or look upon begrudgingly, because when it’s time to say goodbye, you leave your footprints behind.
Looking back, it isn’t so bad.
Growing up, and still being sane after that experience, is an achievement on its own.
At least, now the caption “started from the bottom” finally has meaning; we might not have held on to every single person in our lives, but the ones we chose to end school with, have stuck together through the digressing path of development.
It was bittersweet while it lasted, but we survived just fine.