OV(HER)COMING IT ALL:My High-school Experience in Seven Lessons.

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

Just imagine fourteen year old freshman me with my first day fit, new backpack, and shiny silk press; screaming on the inside about the journey I was about embark upon.

Starting something new

The “High School Experience” for a person like myself was frightening, exciting, enlightening, and unpredictable to say the least. Even though I decided to attend an arts school rather than a traditional one, the struggles I faced were the same. This was comforting because I knew the things I went through were universal, and that there were people like me who got through them. I was at that awkward stage in my life in ninth grade. You know that period where you’re in the middle of trying to find out who you are and how you want to express who you may be? Just imagine fourteen year old freshman me with my first day fit, new backpack, and shiny silk press; screaming on the inside about the journey I was about embark on. Although I went into my freshman year a bit afraid of what was to come for me, I made the best out of that year and those to follow. My high school years were anything but normal and easy, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They’ve shaped me into who I am and have cleared out my vision in what I want for the future. Yet, looking back on those hectic semesters, I wish I would’ve had more guidance from people who’d actually been through high school. Navigating my way through teenage stress, drama, and insecurities would’ve been better if I’d had some words of advice from fellow peers to look back on when times got hard. Although I had the help of my parents, advice comes a bit easier when it comes from someone you can relate to. After the long years sprinkled with mistakes, I look back on seven lessons I’ve taken from them for anyone who might need some guidance through their own high school battles:

1. DO NOT judge your journey of success at the pace of others.

One of the things I always noticed about myself is that I constantly compared myself to others. I’d often be down in the dumps about being denied for groups and positions I'd applied for that others around me were accepted to. I’d beat myself up silently over contests I’d lose, wondering if I was ever good enough. I based my qualities and my journey of success on others. I had to sit down and realize that this is a journey, and that we all move at different paces. I had to accept that what was for me would be, and that the best I could do was try my absolute hardest. I had to learn to be confident in my abilities. Once I was able to do that, the blooming of my triumphs reminded me why the rain was necessary.

2. It’s okay to be scared, but don’t function from that fear.

It is perfectly normal to be afraid of a new beginning. It is also okay to be afraid of change. Yet, don’t let that fear run you to your own defeat. Don’t let that doubt stunt your growth. I had to realize that most of the things I was afraid of, were only in my head. I say this to encourage others coming behind me: You run for that class president spot, you try out for that team, you apply for that internship, you spark that conversation with someone else, you make that connect, and you walk down those halls with your head up and your soul assured. Fear can only hold you back for as long as you allow it, because it is only as real as you make it.

3. Make note of EVERYTHING

I had to make it a goal to break up with procrastination. One of the best things that worked for me was to write everything down. It’s motivating to note a goal and work toward accomplishing it. This tip isn’t just for the procrastinators, it’s for anyone. Writing down your goals can help you organize what it is you actually want to achieve and hold yourself accountable. I made a huge deal about purchasing a planner my senior year to get myself started. Jot down what feels important to you, and act on it. A goal without a plan is just a genie’s wish.

4. Hold onto what you believe in

High school could get very stressful at times. I’m a baptist southern black girl who held onto her sanity by playing Gospel Music at 3 am, praying to God to get me over what I was going through. My faith helps me hold on to myself during those tough times, and it’s something I’d strongly advise others to do. Hold onto whatever you believe in, and let it bring you back to one piece when you find yourself scattered. Protect your well-being and your mind while remembering to never stop taking care of yourself. You need yourself more than you’ll need anyone else, never let yourself go.

5. Enjoy your own company

Love being with and by yourself . This was something that came easy to me after a while. I’d lost a lot of friends throughout my high school journey; it even got to the point of where all I had was myself. I had to do some serious soul searching paired with long talks with God. I learned to love being in my own company and I was perfectly fine with spending time with myself. I used those times for self-care and reflection. When you grow, you have to make time for self care and self reflection. They both play a part in discovering who you are and taking care of who you are becoming. Enjoying my own company is what kept me happy through breakups (relationship wise and friendship wise). It made me grow an understanding of what I wanted in my life, how to protect my peace, and who I was.

6. The girls around you are not meant to hurt you.

Society teaches us right off the bat that as women, we are against each other. There’s always a battle of who can get to the top the fastest through entertainment, social media, and the communities around us. We focus on competing against each other rather than helping each other rise. There’s always the dumb and illogical concept of “having more male friends because girls are out to get me.” Yet, not every girl you meet is out to get you and not every man is for you; boo. We have to take this time in high school to develop relationships and connections between each other. Smile instead of mean mugging her, and if you think her outfit is poppin’; tell her. The mean girl facade is played out and tired. We need to to empower one another, because we need each other; no matter how much we might not want to admit it.

7. You build your image the way you want to.

While in school, you’re going to be building an image from scratch of how you want to be perceived. You decide on what you want that image to be. Remember that your attitude determines your altitude and that your choices can affect who you become . Don’t take this chance lightly, because the world can be a harsh and judgmental place. Don’t try to be anyone but yourself, because no one can do it better. Never forget that you define who you are and you create who you want to be.

Reflecting on my growth

These are just a few words of advice I wished I’d received before high school. Those four years were not easy, but I made it out in one piece. Now, I’ll head into the journey of growing into a young woman prepared for whatever is on my plate. I will not base my journey of success off of others or function out of fear. I will hold onto all that I believe in, enjoy my own company, know that those around me are not meant to hurt me, and build my image the way I want to. I plan to use these exact words of advice I've stated, because the lessons I have learned don't stop at high school; they'll travel with me through the rest of my life. High school was great, but onto the next chapter of even greater I go!

-Ashley Lauren

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