What I Wish I Had Known

By Abby Johnson on July 21, 2014
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The summer before high school I had the next four years perfectly planned out. I was going to have a 4.0 GPA, make the speech team, do as many activities as possible, and then eventually go on to attend an Ivy League school.

Needless to say, 90 percent of those things never came true. As important as it is to set goals for yourself, I set my expectations way too high. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I actually came to terms with this.

Prior to high school all I ever heard about was how smart and talented my older sister was. She was captain of the speech team, top 10 in her class, a National Merit Scholar, took every honors/AP class offered, was in countless activities. At that point in my life I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Figuring that I needed to know exactly what I wanted to do before high school I settled on emulating my sister’s high school career.

Pave your own path
However, my four years of high school could not have been any more different than my sister’s. I didn’t do speech, nor was I top 10 in my class or a National Merit Scholar. I was president of the Spanish club, did photography, started my own fashion column for my school newspaper, sang in the choir, volunteered at local fashion shows, and took ballroom dancing classes. Even though my sister’s activities resulted in numerous trophies and praise from family members, I was glad to have paved my own path. I wish I wouldn’t have cared so much about what she did. I wasted so much time trying to be something I wasn’t. You need to do what makes you happy. Regardless of what your family and friends want you to do in high school, it ultimately comes down to what you want.

I have friends who only took the classes or did the activities that their friends were involved in, or that their parents told them to. It’s important to start making your own decisions and thinking for yourself. When you get to college and eventually move on to owning your own home, paying bills and whatnot, you need to develop that sense of independence. The sooner you develop it, the better.

Many paths to success
High school is the first step in starting to take responsibility for your actions, and thinking for yourself. So long to the middle school days of no homework and teachers babying you. For me, this was a difficult adjustment, having to make my own decisions about the activities I was involved in, classes I took and figuring out how much I needed to study. There is no magic recipe for how to do things in high school. There’s no one, sure-fire way to get an A on a test or in a class. That’s what frustrated me most about high school.

I desperately wanted to succeed but there were so many questions: How many hours should I study for a test? How would I make new friends? What if I don’t know anyone in the activities or classes I’m in? How am I going to get to my next class in such a short amount of time? What I found out is that the answers to those questions aren’t as black and white as they may seem. Everyone is different. As the saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks.” You need to just go out there and figure out what works for you. Maybe you’ll take the back staircases to get to class on time, or make friends by talking about school. Maybe you’ll stay after school for review sessions or make flashcards for the upcoming math test. Whatever your methods may be, make it work.

About the Author

Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson

University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota.

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