The Finale: Advice for High School Freshmen
YOU GUYS!!! How the heck am I even writing this post right now? The day I started drafting my first Dear Monday Blog posts I never thought Dear Monday would still be a part of my life as a senior. I was anxious about who I was and who I wanted to become. I didn't feel close to my friends and I had never kissed a boy! I wanted instant gratification and crazy high school memories handed to me on a silver platter. Now here we are! I've thought about doing a full-on ‘My Biggest Lessons Learned in High School’ post for a while now but I knew I couldn’t write the best post possible until the end of my senior year. For years you all have written in asking for a post on advice for freshmen and I’ve been sprinkling in my best tips for surviving high school throughout the past 3 years of Mondays but now is finally the time to share the biggest, most important takeaways with you all.
Some of this advice is silly, but most serious, so relevant, and are takeaways from life moments that have really influenced me looking back on my entire high school experience. This is a post I know I will surely look back on for the rest of my life and I encourage you to revisit now and again as well.
Alright let’s get into it!
1. High school is not a movie.
Contrary to my deepest hopes, high school is not ‘High School Musical’. This sounds cynical but please trust that I am saying this with nostalgia looking back and with great optimism for you. Is there a chance you kiss one of your crushes or maybe even date them in the next four years? 100%. Is there a chance you get into your top college? Sure. That you have a huge, fun friend group? Totally. But I’ll caution you that there were very very rare occurrences where I felt fulfilled academically, socially, and romantically all at the same time. In the past four years, it has not been so often that I've felt in one moment that I was on top of the world, crushing it in every aspect of life. High school throws you curve balls all the time and it is not one smooth ride. Be ready to deal with rejection from select student groups, sports teams, romantic interests, and even friendships. Take failure in your stride and learn to acknowledge your worth beyond superficial wins. What’s going to happen when you get a B- in a class, get left on open, and aren’t feeling prioritized by your friends? Figure out who you are and what you stand for beyond validation from others. Yes, there were certain weekend nights that felt like I was living in a movie, blasting music in the drive-through of In and Out at 1am packed in the car with a bunch of friends or watching the sunset with a crush. I mean actually the majority of my best high school memories can be romanticized (surfing every morning before school in 10th grade, night drives to get Malibu Yogurt on the PCH, the most ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ week ever in Rhode Island with friends) but I also spent two years quarantined, I never had a boyfriend, I had to beg my way into several high school parties, and my friend group changed a lot. This first piece of advice is more of a disclaimer: the people around you are not about to burst into song and dance while you're eating lunch in the cafeteria (interpret that as a metaphor).
2. Be A Professional Finesser
This may be the best piece of advice I have for you: Don’t wait for good things to come to you. Life is too short and being passive is going to get you nowhere. I applied for selective student groups at school that rejected me. I was one of two girls out of the entire group trying out for lacrosse at my school not asked to play on the team. I ran to be class president 7 years in a row and was never elected. Yet, my entire college application is comprised of little passion projects that turned into full-fledged extracurriculars. I made opportunities for myself by messaging industry experts and those who inspired me on LinkedIn. I started my blog and clothing line from a place of personal struggle. I invested time in leadership training to begin coalition-building work between minority groups in my city and at my school through interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue. CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES. Be in control of your own narrative and never let a ‘no’ deter you from taking ownership of your life and your time. I finessed my way onto lists for so many parties. I pursued lots of romantic interests and finessed some interesting outcomes. I finessed internships, babysitting gigs, and jobs. YOU. ARE. A. BOSS. Remember that.
3. We’re Not Begging For Friends.
*For people who are going to high school with friends from their middle school or who go to a 7th - 12th school** In general (not always) but speaking in the larger picture, don’t expect your friends are going to stay the same for the next 4 years. Feeling unsure of your people, petty fights, and exclusion is a middle school thing that definitely carries through into freshman and sophomore year. It starts to phase out by the middle to end of 10th grade. If you’re at the age where you’re able to drive a literal car on the freeway and get a real job yet your friend group seems to be stuck in middle school then you need to find new friends. In my experience, having gone to middle school and high school with the same people, everyone started to mature in 10th grade and I felt like I finally found my group. Freshman year is hard, especially if you’re at a new school, but you’ll slowly start to realize that you really don’t have to be best friends with everyone. Not even close to everyone. Different friends will find their niche roles in your life. I only recently allowed myself to accept that if I don’t like x person then why to waste time fretting over whether x person likes me back? I know how hard it is for all of us people pleasers. As one myself, It’s not a bizarre concept to want to be included and liked by all. BUT we’re done begging for friends and we’re not proving ourselves to people anymore. That’s over. You may do things you regret because you wanted to fit in. Being insecure is a choice and you don't have to choose it.
4. Take Your Grades Seriously
I’m slipping in a real one - don’t be lazy. It’s more likely than not that you’re not going to feel like doing your homework sometimes or studying for a test. PLEASE PLEASE REMEMBER THAT GRADES AREN’T EVERYTHING BUT you won’t remember the long hours of memorizing terms or the extra mile you took to meet with teachers before big exams once you see your transcript and your college acceptances rolling in. I hear from my friends all the time how much they regret not putting in a little bit more effort in their freshman and sophomore years. Your parents and teachers will hold very high standards for you. The work to secure good grades is stressful, time-consuming, and frankly boring. BUT if you’re the kind of kid who has the potential to get solid grades if you put in the time then commit! I was NEVER the naturally smartest in the room. I’m pretty sure most of my classmates thought I was genuinely dumb because I asked a lot of questions. I’m graduating top of my class because most, if not all the time, hard work pays off.
5. Set standards. Own your values.
At some point in high school, my friend was dealing with a situtionship with a guy. She wasn’t satisfied with how she was being treated and told me “I’m honestly not setting a standard for the kind of a guy I want to be with, I’m setting the standard for the kind of girl I am to be”. This line still gives me chills. You might not realize it now but a lot of the mistreatment you’ll experience in high school contributes to what treatment you may accept for the rest of your life. Set your standards now. If you put up with something once, you’ll put up with it again. What kind of girl do you want to be? One that doesn’t know how to say no? One that gets picked up late at night and never asked to hang out in advance? One that sacrifices loyalty and trust with close friends? Boys are temporary, friends are forever.
6. Fail fast
Listen, you’ll go through a lot of ups and downs in high school. You know that already. Let yourself live through the changes. I had the worst acne in high school and went on Accutane twice. I hated certain features of my body. I wanted to be friends with certain people and invited to certain things. As someone who documents my life through journaling and writing letters to my future self, I look back and laugh. Appreciate every stage and every hard moment for the chapter it is in your journey. There’s a beauty to understanding that everything is temporary, that one day you’ll look back and want to hug and laugh at your younger self all at once. Make mistakes while your parents and close friends are still there to lean back on. Fail fast. Like I’ve mentioned, every rejection, every breakup, every bad grade that wrecks you will push you forward. Kelly Clarkson once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
7. Care more about how you feel than how you look.
What’s behind the concealer and heavy eyeliner? A fun-loving, sometimes insecure, mostly confident queen? Fabulous. Maybe not. Maybe it’s not that simple. They’ll be a lot of people around you in the next for years that see life in black and white. You’re either happy and all good or completely not. There’s also a lot of judgment and shame that comes with not being okay. Whether you were raised in a household, go to a school, or live in an area that urges mental health awareness or not, know that there are resources out there for you. Teenline and SAMHSA's National Helpline are great.
8. The grass is not always greener “how do you like…”
There’s mostly going to be some point in your high school career when you may consider switching schools. This could even happen several times. Trust your gut and do what you need to do but also realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. As a senior now I run into kids from all the other schools in LA all the time. Even though we already know the answer, we always ask one another “so how do like x school”... it’s honestly just a formality at this point. No one EVER says “OMG I LOVE IT”. They wanted to switch to boarding school but then didn’t or something like that. I’m REALLY glad I didn’t switch schools. Nothing was going to make freshman year better. Sometimes it just sucks. I would be remised if I didn’t mention I am glad I didn’t switch schools. If you need/want to switch schools at all in the next four years definitely consider it and do your research, just remember that you may actually have it better than you think and that it will get better.
9. There’s no harm in asking. Actually ALWAYS come in with an ask.
My entrepreneurship teacher once told me to ALWAYS come in with an ask at the end of the pitch for my clothing line. Whether it was having listeners join a focus group, follow you on social media, or fill out a feedback form, an ‘ask’ was always an essential conclusion to my business capstone presentations. I applied this advice to the rest of my life. ASK your teachers for extra credit. ASK your mutual friend if you can come to the party too. ASK the track coach if you can try out for the team even though you are only considering taking up the sport in junior year. Grab coffee with your friend's mom who’s a big real estate broker for an informational interview and ASK about a summer internship with her. Speak to the stranger sitting next to you on the plane who happens to be a big-time magazine editor and ASK them to be a guest speaker for your ‘Business and Fashion Club’ at school. There is absolutely zero harm in asking. This advice is pretty similar to the ‘professional finnesser’ advice but I can’t reiterate enough how life-changing it can be when you’re your own self-advocate.
9. Being interested means more than being interesting.
My biggest insecurity has always been that someone will leave a conversation with me and think I’m dumb, shallow, boring, and clueless. I honestly am the definition of a pick-me girl sometimes. I’ll admit that I constantly tell myself that ‘I’m not like other girls’. It’s cringe and just not cute but I genuinely have to think this way or I WILL become just like everyone else. I’m speaking this affirmation into existence basically. Anywho, I’ve spent many conversations with people trying to prove that I am interesting or that I can get deep. You know what?! Being INTERESTED in others, being an attentive listener, and showing up for others can sometimes mean a lot more than talking someone’s ear off. Let’s test them?! Are they even that interesting? Can that boy even keep a conversation? Is he funny and intellectual and entertaining? If you leave a conversation with someone at a party or at school feeling unsatisfied that says 11000x more about them than it does about you. Period.
10. ******SAY I’M NOT READY*****
This advice changed my life. Seriously. Storytime: so my good friend was starting to hang out with a guy during junior year and she liked him. A lot. She was ready to kiss him within the first few days of meeting him and move quicker than they were at that point BUT she wouldn’t let him kiss her for the first time in literal weeks. Even just a kiss. She took things slow slow. She prioritized an emotional connection. She made him work for it. I was a little in shock when she told me this. I thought that was so sneaky and too strategic, also maybe even a little dramatic. And listen there are SO many schools of thought on how fast to move with a guy and I could speak on both sides of the debate but for the most part, I’m pro-taking things slow. Anyways so she fully inspired me and I started applying this ‘I’m not ready yet thing’ with the guys in my life too. There’s an art to verbalizing that you’re wanting to move slower with a guy in the middle of a hookup while maintaining flirty, suave energy and not seeming like you’re rejecting them. There’s a Call Her Daddy Episode: “The Ex Encounter” around minute 14 that covers this EXACT topic. Alex Cooper nailed it. Ok Ok so I’m getting with a guy during junior year and even though I was ready to maybe go a little further on our third time hanging out I decided to pull the “I’m not ready yet card” because I really didn’t want him to think I was easy. After shutting him down, he proceeded to suggest we go even further than the initial request. I honestly was so perplexed… like where were your social cues buddy?! I had literally just said I wasn’t ready to do something yet and not even 5 minutes later he’s saying we should hit all the bases. BRO. Following that night he failed to reach out and make sure I felt comfortable and ok about our prior conversation. He said all the wrong things. BIG TAKEAWAY: I am SO glad that my friend inspired me to make a guy work a little harder and wait to do certain things even if it’s not the most out of world stuff because it forces the guy to reveal his intentions. If he’s unhappy waiting and doesn’t care to keep you around then you’ll know it. Going slow not only allows you to enjoy every second of growing closer together but it can be your perfect test of how badly this guy really wants YOU! I will NEVER EVER forget that night. I am so proud of myself for saying no when I easily could have said yes because a cute, popular guy wanted me to. I thank my friend and my mom for teaching me these values. I can only hope that my future daughters and you all reading this will follow your instincts and stand your ground in situations like this. You are nothing without your values.
And that’s a wrappppp. Remember that high school is high school. Nothing is THAT important or catastrophic. Say YES ot life! Try new things and look at life with a glass-half-full mentality. Invest in the people and hobbies that make you who you are. Find mentors you can lean on (and tell them that you appreciate them! People like to be seen). Get a job (in retail, as a hostess/waiter, or with kids). Oh, and EAT BREAKFAST!!!! You need fuel!
Wow! I feel like this is the end of an era. I’M LITERALLY SHEDDING TEARS WRITING THIS because this post will probably be my last blog post before college. Oh btw if you’ve read this far then you probably want to know where I’m going to college. UR GURL IS A BLUE DEVIL. I committed to Duke University a few days ago and am beyond excited. It was my dream school and Dear Monday surely helped me achieve this dream. Thank you all for being there for me and for being dedicated readers. I couldn’t be more thankful. Should I keep writing posts in college? DM me on Instagram @dearmondayblog and let me know.
WE GOT THIS BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you, my middle girls. WE HAVE EACH OTHER. ALWAYS.
Alright, I’m logging off for a bit!