Picture it: You walk out of a classroom and head to lunch. But where do you sit? Everyone seems to know each other and have established friend groups — where do you fit in? Or maybe your English teacher tells you to get into groups for a presentation. Who do you ask to join? Do you ask to work by yourself?
These are struggles all teenagers face at some point in their high school careers. Feeling as though you don’t fit in is a dishearteningly common feeling that thrives in high schools across America. However, there’s hope! I went to the Firestone Charter Academy, am the oldest of my siblings, and had only stepped foot in Mead twice before my first day, but I somehow made it through the last three years unscathed. High school was uncharted territory for me and my family, and I knew few of the people I was now spending every day around. But I made it because I did the following things.
1. Talk to everyone. Nothing is worse than walking into a new class and realizing you don’t know anyone in the room. This happens a lot when you’re an underclassman because most of the classes you take those years aren’t specialized. These are scary days, but don’t let them overwhelm you!
These are also great opportunities to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise interact with. I’m the least musically talented person you will ever meet, but most of my friends are involved in band, choir, or drama, all because I asked a girl in my Biology class to sit with me at lunch one afternoon. Sometimes making the leap is all it takes to build meaningful relationships with your peers.
2. Do what you want to do. Joining activities and clubs can be intimidating, especially if it’s something you haven’t tried before, but don’t let this stop you. This feeling of being too late or behind the curve only gets stronger as you get further into your high school career. If you want to try something new, go for it. You’ll meet new people, make new memories, and learn about yourself and your interests.
If you decide to join track and totally hate it, that’s okay! You tried something, got some exercise in, and became more involved with your community. This doesn’t mean you have to marry the activity you try or be the best at it, but deciding not to do something because you’re afraid of putting yourself out there leads to regrets on graduation day.
This same concept applies to attitudes. School spirit is hard to grasp when you get to high school. You go to your first assembly and stare wide eyed at the crazy-looking seniors wearing all orange and rattling windows as they yell out cheers you don’t know the words to and sing the school song like their lives depend on it. This shock and apprehension can lead to apathy very quickly, especially if you surround yourself with negative people and attitudes. I only went to one football game my freshman year, and I still regret not going to more. It was the most fun I’d had in ages, and watching the flag be run down the field by a boy painted like the American flag is so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh the whole time.
Buying into school pride is weird to start, but it makes your school experience so much better. You’ll have fun making memories and get to cheer on your peers doing what they’re passionate about. Support your Mavs by going to the productions that the drama department puts together every year, congratulate a speech and debate kid on getting to state, or cheer on the Unified Basketball kids when they play the teachers in their annual game. Mead has so many wonderful aspects to it, you’re sure to find one that you enjoy and can take pride in.
This isn’t something that has to be done alone either. Grab a friend and take them to tryouts with you or ask them to be your date to homecoming. Your friends and fellow Mavs are there to support you and help you with whatever you need, ask for help or support when you need it.
3. Value your time with peers. High school involves a lot of academic pressure. And while I agree that taking classes that are challenging for you and applying yourself to your work are important, they should not overshadow your happiness or state of being. As someone who took four AP classes and worked at least four nights a week her junior year, I have worked to the point of failure and tears. I have been caught up in the whirlwind of taking on as much as possible so you don’t disappoint your parents or counselor or future self, and honey, it is not worth it.
Being in high school should be fun and a time of development for not just your mind but also your soul. Building relationships with your peers and just having fun every once in a while is important. Discovering who you are doesn’t just happen in the classroom or at soccer practice, it happens in your best friend’s basement when you’re watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Take time to take care of yourself and have fun! We’re still kids, we should be enjoying this while we can.
Take my advice and put yourself out there Mavs, you’ll be amazed at the results.