General

These Ten Tips Will Save Your Life as a Freshman

FINAL HIGH SCHOOL

It’s hard to believe that I was a freshman in high school. After all, the famous writer, C.S. Lewis, said: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.”
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I cannot emphasize that although one may attend the same high school for four years; each year provides new lessons on what one should learn inside and outside the classroom. Every time I walked past my old classroom from the year before, I thought about how I had changed. How the classroom held special memories for me. How now the classroom degraded into any ordinary room because the old teacher was replaced. Therefore, such unique memories remained for only one year; i.e., 9th grade.
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Like a young plant being nurtured, I changed so much throughout my four short years. The movies did not do justice to reality, which could lead to unhealthy expectations. For example, in the best-selling Disney movie called High School Musical, the protagonist looks like she has everything figured out: academically and socially.
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Obviously, none of that happened. I realized how wrong I was. First of all, I was still as awkward as ever. And unlike the main character, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was disappointed, as movies and books romanticized the high school experience.
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Anyway, here is my top-ten list of what every freshman should know. It’s a list of general things to remember when life gets hard.
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Warning: I cannot speak for every high schooler across the globe. Nor can I vouch for all cultural aspects of all high schools. What may be a core value in one culture can be completely shunned in another. However, world-over, as I understand it, the high school experience is relatively the same all over. All teens experience more or less the same feelings, changes, and struggles.
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Another warning: You will make mistakes that are unique to you regardless of how many lists you read. All you can do is read what’s out there, absorb the information, and do your best to apply it to your own life.
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With that being said, my heart goes out to all of you freshmen. Here’s the list:

  1. All the feelings you’re feeling? Don’t worry, they’re normal.
    I know this may be hard to believe right now, but I promise you, you’re not the only one who’s going bonkers over trying to understand your place in the world. I remember thinking about things that overwhelmed me. Thoughts that were like a heavy box glued to the top of my head. I couldn’t remove it, nor did I know how to cope with these thoughts.
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    Sure, I knew I could talk to someone about them. But I what I didn’t understand was why I was feeling them.
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    I couldn’t understand the bigger picture of what was going on. I had so many unanswered questions: why was I so insecure about myself? Why was I so scared about the future? Why did I have a love-hate relationship with my family? Why was I so confused about who I was?
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    But the ironic truth is this: everyone is going through the same thing. We just happen to think, “Oh there’s no way that other people might be having the same thoughts.”Remember, you’re going through a time of change. You’re leaving childhood and transitioning to adulthood. There will be bumps along the way. It will not be a perfect journey. It may not look like it, but everyone has and will feel the same things you feel.
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    How can I be sure that this is true? My friends have all agreed that it was a very tough and confusing journey. You will feel awkward and uncomfortable at times. But that’s okay because you’re still trying to figure things out. The only difference is as an adult, you will know yourself much better. Thus, you will have figured out coping strategies to whatever life throws in your way.
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  2. Grades do not define you.
    Let me elaborate. When you are a senior, you will send in your applications for college. These colleges will assess your grades. Your extra-curricular activities. Your whole life!
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    Just kidding. Anyhow, there is a pre-conceived notion that if you don’t get A+ grades for every subject, you’ll be banished to the woods like the archer named Robin Hood. This means students are under tremendous pressure from teachers, parents, and peers to perform to their standards.
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    However, there is a fine line between doing your best and taking it too far.
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    Trust me, I’m not perfect either. I was guilty of overloading myself with too much pressure. I thought it was the only way to “win the perfect score.” This habit developed into generalized anxiety; creating havoc on all aspects of my life.
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    It’s tacit that I was ecstatic after all of my hard work. Unfortunately, my joy faded once the news had sunk in. Which meant I was never proud of myself despite what I had achieved. Instead, I was only relieved that I met my high expectations for that day leading to a vicious cycle.Worst of all, my self-worth was defined through my grades. A good grade meant I had everything good and vice versa.
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    I felt like a struggling gymnast on a balance beam who wanted to perform her best at all times. No matter how excruciating the process was, it didn’t matter. If I had to study five hours to get that perfect score, then that’s what I had to do. After all, I’m only a good person if I got an A on a math test, right? Or at least, that’s what I thought at one point in time.
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    It’s extremely unrealistic to believe that one can maintain perfect grades in every single subject for the entire year. One should not focus so much on grades that other parts of their life are neglected.Which leads me to number three.
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  3. Learn how to balance and prioritize things in your life.
    After reading point two, you now know grades aren’t everything. Now, you can spend your time on other things you like to do that could help you grow into a better person. Hurrah! There is a good reason Mark Twain said, “I never let my school interfere with my education.” The reason is because school will not teach you everything you need and want to know. If I could go back to 9th grade, I would do my best to prioritize my time better; helping me become a more well-rounded individual.
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  4. Try new things.
    Let me tell you all a short story: in my freshman year, I was the classroom journalist (CJ) in the classroom economy. Now this might not make much sense, but the idea of a classroom economy was that every student had a job in our student society. If you did your job well; you earned your month’s salary. After that, you could buy treats like pencils and snacks. Sounds like a simplified version of the real-world, right? It sure was. Of course, if you were lazy, you were penniless for the month.
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    Except, there was one problem–I didn’t like being the classroom journalist.
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    Then Zoey, why did you choose that job? You should have chosen something else you liked to do. It’s not that hard…Unfortunately, my friends, it wasn’t that simple. There was a system to choosing the job you wanted. On the sign-up sheet, one could list their top three jobs in order of preference.
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    The first two choices are irrelevant to this story, but what matters was that I listed “journalist” as my third choice. And yes, there were other jobs I could have chosen, but they were boring and didn’t offer a challenge. Sure, I would have done them well, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to do something just because it’s easier.
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    Don’t get me wrong, I did like the description of what the classroom journalist entailed. I knew that I would learn a lot. My only problem was that I knew had to step out of my comfort zone–which isn’t always easy to do.
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    You may laugh at me, but I secretly wished that I wouldn’t get the job even though I signed up for it.The next day, my teacher announced wh0-was-doing-what-job. Turns out, nobody except me signed up to be the classroom journalist because everyone was terrified of the extra work the CJ had to prepare each week. Therefore, I was assigned the job.You may be wondering what’s so horrible about this job that no one even dared to sign up for it.
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    The CJ had to research the world news and give a five-minute presentation of what happened in the news that week to the entire class.
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    For some people, this may not sound so daunting; however, considering the number-one fear people have is public speaking…this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. But add in the factor where my classmates and teacher could ask me any question they wished, and I had to be on-top-of-everything…it really did make things tricky.
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    And mind you, this wasn’t once in a while. This was every single week.In the beginning, I blamed myself. I blamed the class. I blamed the interviewer (another student) who decided that it would be a good idea to assign me as the CJ. I even blamed the teacher for putting that job as an option. Yes, I stooped that low. But I couldn’t help it; I was that angry.
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    As furious as I was, I had to do it regardless. The good news is I did survive. The bad news is that the first presentation didn’t go so well. I stammered and blanked out in various parts of my talk. All in all, I felt pretty embarrassed.
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    Slowly, I improved. My classmates benefited. My teacher was thrilled that everyone was learning something new. I beamed at what I had achieved. My confidence grew. So, the moral of the story is…
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  5. Most of your fears don’t come true.
    When I became the CJ in 9th grade, many worst-case-scenarios crossed my mind. We’re wired to think of far-fetched scenarios, which are unlikely to happen. The point is, we fear the unknown. We like to catastrophize over unlikely scenarios. And you know what? The truth is that I only became a better person after I conquered my fear.
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    The reality is, if you don’t seize the opportunity, you will only regret it.Overthinking the situation won’t help you. It’ll just make it harder for you to take that chance. Think of a child learning how to swim. One cannot swim when only one’s legs are submerged. At some point, he/she will have to take the plunge and jump.
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    In summary, if there’s anything you take from this story, it is this–if you ever come across any opportunity–never let your fear hold you back.
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  6. Make time for fun things.
    Since teens are under so much pressure, we feel guilty when we aren’t productive. Which is ridiculous because once cannot study all the time. I used to feel guilty because I couldn’t finish everything on my to-do list. Many times, I was so exhausted after a long school day that I just couldn’t work to my full potential because my brain had turned to mush. Since I was unable to concentrate on my homework, I procrastinated finishing it until it was near bedtime.
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    And that’s when the panic monster kicked in and forced me to work and sleep late. Quite frequently. So, don’t do what I did. First of all, you do not have to feel guilty. Sometimes, even when you try your best, you might be unproductive because of circumstances. No one has A+ day every day. As a result, there’s only so much you can do in each day.Your brain is not a machine. Thus, don’t beat yourself up over things you didn’t do. Instead, focus on the things you did do. Once you accomplish this, you’ll be a much happier person.
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    On the days you do waste time because you’re tired, don’t force yourself to study when it’s not working out. It’s useless. In fact, you’ll just waste more time because you couldn’t rest, nor could you study. You will end up being stuck in a limbo where you kill time because you feel guilty about doing nothing. Which will only make you feel worse.
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    Instead of dawdling, just stop, get up, and do something else. It’s a sign that your brain needs a break. And when you do get work done, make sure you reward yourself.
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  7. Learn how to manage stress.
    There will be times you feel stressed out. You’ll hate the teachers for piling on so much homework. You will feel like screaming, pulling your hair out, and wanting to throw everything in a corner and run away. The worst thing one can do is letting the stress build until it explodes; leading to a nervous breakdown. Like with anything else, there are good and bad coping mechanisms. When I’m stressed out, I like to read, write, and draw. What about you? What do you like to do?
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  8. No one will stick up for you except yourself.
    There will be times where you feel unsafe. Someone may say something mean, make fun of you, or act against you, which will question your self-worth. Unless you have brave friends, most will be scared to stick up for you because nobody wants to be in a sticky spot. No one likes to feel vulnerable and will do anything to protect themselves. This sounds selfish, but many are only acting in self-preservation.
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    Practice defending yourself to make sure people don’t walk all over you. And if the uncomfortable situation persists, please ask for help when you need it. Your teachers, guardians, and the administration exist for a reason.
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  9. Don’t be afraid to do what’s best for you.
    There will be times when you experience peer pressure. It can be so strong, that you might drop all of your values to fit in. Don’t even go there. It’s not worth it. If it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t do it. Trust your gut instinct. I’m saving the best one for last. This one probably plagues every single teenager. It sounds so simple, yet it’s so hard to do. Even adults do it from time to time.
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  10. Don’t worry so much about what others think of you.
    Why do we worry so much about what others think of us? Is it because we’re scared that they’ll make fun of us? Abandon you? Hate you? Think you’re weird? Well, guess what? Whatever people think of you…it’s none of your business.
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    Chances are, people aren’t thinking of you at all. If you put your self-worth on what other people think of you, then you’ll never be happy as you cannot please everyone. Instead, what you can do is work on your self-confidence. Once you realize that your self-worth doesn’t come from other people, then immediately the voices of others will fade into the background.And that’s it. Was any of this information new to you? If not, what do you think are some things high-schoolers should know? Please check out my blog. I wish you all a wonderful week, and please let me know if you want me to make more high school advice. Or even a part two to this post.

 

And that, everyone, was the ever-amazing Zoey from Encreating Culture. Go give her some love on there ❤

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