The Meaning of High School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 2, 2011
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Have you ever seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas”? Come on … I'm a Jew and I've seen it. If so, you're probably familiar with this scene. Charlie Brown (who is inexplicably inseparable from his last name) turns to his thumb-sucking friend Linus (who inexplicably has no last name) after being humiliated by his friends and fed up with a commercialized holiday, and yells: “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” Linus, lowering his thumb and blanket, says: “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He walks to center stage, politely asks: “Lights, please?” A spotlight illuminates him, and he launches into a spiel about Jesus and Christian ideals before walking offstage and simply states: “That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Well, I ask you, isn't there anyone who knows what high school is all about? The way I see it, high school has two possible purposes:

1. As individuals, we really have no idea who we are. In high school we pretend to be like everyone else for four years so that at the end we can announce: “This is ridiculous,” and then emerge from the experience with only minor injuries and an inner knowledge of what we want to do with the rest of our life. We learn in the end that every little thing we stressed out about – every group we were excluded from, every bad hair day – was completely and utterly insignificant and we would have come out exactly the same if none of it had happened.

2. As individuals, we really have no idea who we are. High school is a time when we are particularly impressionable, and it therefore has the power to determine who we are or want to be. We are the little silver ball in the pinball machine of life that bounces around for four years, not realizing until afterward that every time we moved, everything we bounced off of helped determine where we would end up in life. Every little thing we stressed out about – every group we were excluded from, every bad hair day – was significant and responsible for determining who we were at the end of the experience.

Disclaimer #1: Maybe you have some idea of who you are and who you want to be. I know I thought I did until a month ago, when I realized I had absolutely no idea. It's my nonprofessional opinion that if you're in high school and think you know exactly who you are, where you're going and why, you're probably delusional. It is plausible, sure, but I can't picture many 50-year-olds looking back at their senior yearbooks and thinking, Mentally and emotionally speaking, I haven't changed a bit!

Disclaimer #2: Yes, I may be ­reading way too deep into this. Maybe high school is just four years between puberty and college. Maybe it has no effect on us other than providing prom pictures that'll be fun to show our kids and giving us the vocabulary to sound slightly educated in adult conversations.

Nonetheless, high school is a fascinating chunk of your life. A couple of days ago, my mom gave me a lecture about life (you know how they go). The only thing she said that actually stuck with me was something like, “Live it up now, because high school and college are the years when change happens. You change, things around you change, people change, places change. After you settle down, have a family, buy a house, it's no less fulfilling, but things don't really change.”

It seems fitting that when we bid another school year adieu and our seniors speed off to college with their futures in mind, we take a second to remind ourselves that while we'd probably be hard-pressed to find an adult who wishes she could relive her high school days, it won't fly by any faster just because you want it to. No matter what you think high school is, how it affects you and whether or not it all matters in the long run, take a second every once in a while to stop and smell the textbooks.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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InvisibleNerdGirl said...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm
I am going to high-school soon, so thank you, Linus! ;) (his last name is Van Pelt, btw. I know this because Peanuts was the first thing I was ever really geeky about...)
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