By Laila Hashem

High school. The best four years of your life, or the worst. I, for one, am just thankful that I only have 60 days, 7 hours, 16 minutes and 23 seconds to go until I can officially say I survived it. All of it. The good, the bad, the okay, and the blurry all-nighters. Not THOSE all-nighters, the “I’m having an emotional breakdown for the fourth time this week and I have a paper due in 6 hours but I can’t stop crying long enough to type a sentence” blurry all-nighters.

The thing about high school is that it changes you, and as much as you may not like it, there’s not much you can do about it. You walk in and you expect to walk out with the same exact people you walked in with, but that’s rare. And it seriously sucks. You walk in and you expect to befriend your entire grade right away. Now that’s VERY rare. You learn over time that there will always be people who dislike you, but that should never stop you from being yourself. As you grow older, you begin to care less what others think of you and care more about what you think of yourself. It becomes less about everyone else, and more about you, and that’s good.

I’ve learned that it isn’t all laughs and good memories. You lose people, and the scariest part of that is you lose people you thought you would never lose. You make friends that you think will always be by your side, and then bam, they’re out. It is so easy to lose someone you love, it can happen as quick as you can make a friend.

But if anything, Kelly Clarkson is right. I learned that life is hard and sometimes it can seriously suck, but if something doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger.

Sometimes these things aren’t sudden, and surprisingly, I’ve learned that it actually sucks more to lose someone slowly rather than suddenly. Because if it happens slowly, you notice it. You think about it before you go to bed, you think about it when you wake up, you think about it while you’re eating, you even think about it while you’re out and about having a good time, but you push it away. You continue to push and push and push until you’ve convinced yourself that it’s not actually happening. That everything is okay. That everything is not changing.

CHANGE. I learned that change is the reason behind it all. Once my biggest fear and greatest enemy, a six letter word that holds an enormous power over every single one of us. But after four years, I’ve come to accept it as it is. EVERYONE will change, EVERYTHING has to change and that’s okay.

I learned that a lot of things are okay. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to fail a test, it’s okay to get in trouble, it’s okay to not have your entire life figured out, and it’s okay not to be okay.

You failed a test, but so what? We’ve all been there. All it takes is a bit of hard work and determination and you’ll get there.

You got in trouble, but so what? I’ve been to the office more times than I can count but, you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care because I know I’m a good person, and talking back to a teacher doesn’t change that.

You went out on a Saturday night even though you had a big test on Monday. But so what? In a couple of years, you won’t remember grades that were the product of tests who really only tested your ability to memorize, you’ll remember the crazy nights out you had with your best friends and all the laughs and inside jokes you shared.

 

You missed a day of school without a “legitimate” excuse. But so what? God knows I’ve had my fair share of “I do not want to go to school today” days. As long as you stay on top of your work, you’re allowed to take a day for yourself. Give yourself a break, you deserve it.

Now, this isn’t me telling you to be a bad student or anything like that. This is me telling you to be kind to yourself. I learned that I am allowed to make mistakes and I have to forgive yourself. I have to forgive myself and forgive my peers because we are all more than percentages, we are more than slut-shaming, we are more than deadlines, we are more than seating plans, but most importantly, we are all so much more than 9-digit student numbers. We are people before we are students and we have a life outside of school. School does not define us, never has, never will.

You may find yourself stuck at a place you thought you’d never be. You could be alone, or you could be surrounded by people but still feel completely and utterly alone. I learned that finding your people takes time, but trust me, you’ll get there. It will take time but one day, you’ll look around and you’ll realize that you finally feel secure. You’ll be surrounded by people who love and care about you and everything will finally feel okay.

Throughout these rough times, one thing I reminded myself and continue to remind myself today is that none of this will matter in five years. I learned that high school is temporary and my wonderful, loving, annoying best friends and the memories we shared are all that I will carry with me as I exit Forest Hill Collegiate Institute once and for all in October (why do we have to graduate next year again?). I’ll probably also keep in mind that the Mitochondria is the Powerhouse of the Cell and God knows SOH CAH TOA will forever pop up in my head when I hear the word “math”.

All in all, it’s surely been an interesting ride, Forest Hill. If you’re reading this and you haven’t reached the finish line yet, as many of us Grade 12’s have this year, good luck. I’m kidding, you will be fine, I think.

High school will teach you many, many, many things, but you’ll realize soon enough that the most valuable lessons are the ones you taught yourself.

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