When I was 15 years old all I wanted in the world was the ability to drive. I was always the youngest in my class and went to a high school where some of my friends lived up to 25 miles away from me. I didn’t want to rely on my mother to pick me up from school or a friend’s house or wait for the bus to stop for me at the corner of a major highway just to bring me all around the county until I could get to a spot 10 minutes closer to my house. I wanted to drive badly.
My advice to high school students is to enjoy the time they have, and what they have. I now value the days when I couldn’t drive, when my mother and I had 20 minutes to tell each other about our day. I now value the view out my window on the drive home – the houses and trees and eventually cornfields and cows that marked my hometown. When I was 15, all I wanted was to look at the cars in front of me, to control my own vehicle and more importantly, my time.
The little events make life sweet
Now I send my sister texts with requests like “Take a picture of the corn in fall” and “Pick strawberries then make strawberry shortcake.” I miss joking around in chemistry class, my high school choir, stealing mambas from my friends at lunch. I miss the Labor Day party every year where my neighbor would roast corn. I miss the big history festival where I would dress up and make cornhusk dolls with children. (Corn was a big part of my life before college.) I miss the hammock in my backyard and talking with my neighbors when they walked their dogs past our house. Enjoy these little events in your life, whatever form they take for you.
If I could tell one thing to my high school self, I’d say “You’ll grow up soon enough.” And you will. I spent this last summer – the summer after my freshman year of college – as an editorial intern at a press I could see myself working at in the future. I worked 40 hours a week. I got coffee and did my own banking. I paid rent and bought groceries. And for me, it was wonderful. It’s exactly what I want to do with my life, and in many ways is what I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time.
Snagging opportunities leaves few regrets
I have few regrets from high school, possibly because I took advantage of almost every opportunity available to me -- and when the opportunities I wanted weren’t available, I created them. But my regrets come down to not enjoying the little moments that existed. I regret missing my sister’s basketball games and running away when people tried to get close to me. I regret the amount of time I worried about the future.
When you’re in high school, you may want to do big, important things that will help people. And you should do these things that you’re passionate about. But let the small things accompany the big things. Look out the window. You have the rest of your life to do big things; you have until you’re 16 to be driven by your mother (if you’re lucky) or all across the countryside in whatever form of public transportation your town contains.
You have time – take it.
High school is fun and hard and strange and interesting, but ultimately, it’s just high school. The good and the bad – the little moments, the big accomplishments, the glory, the embarrassment, and the work – will be gone soon enough. So enjoy it. Don’t try to grow up too fast.
Don’t try to fit all of your goals and big plans into four years. Trust me – you have time to see them through. So appreciate the moments before you get to drive, laughing with your friends, and the people in your life. Be silly. You’ll grow up soon enough.