In the Acknowledgments section of his novel “Empire Falls,” author Richard Russo thanks his daughter Kate for reminding him “by means of concrete detail just how horrible high school can be, and how lucky we all are to escape more or less intact.”
To be frank, high school is awful for a lot of people. Terrible, brutal, scarring. It is an experience many folks are glad to be done with.
For young people who are in high school, lots of changes are happening. Their bodies are changing, their brains are still forming, their decision-making abilities are not keeping pace with their compulsion to assert themselves and gain a measure of independence. They are trying to belong and fit in and be accepted. They are gaining and losing friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends. Their once-innocuous parents are morphing into rigid, unfeeling gatekeepers. Bullies are on the prowl looking for their proverbial pound of flesh. It can all add up to an unpleasant four-year concoction.
I personally cannot say I learned much in high school that I could actually use. The teachers were great and all, but a lot of what is taught in high school classes is not necessarily applicable to life outside of high school. What sticks with me is the economics teacher telling us that when he was in college, he and his fraternity house buddies would put beer in their cereal when they ran out of milk. He also stressed the importance of saving your money and living within your means, which actually is useful.
Yes, high school academics can sometimes be a joke. However, some teachers and adults, wanting to sound knowing and imperious I suppose, will tell young people that high school is not “the real world.” I disagree.
High school is as real as it gets. You have to get up and be somewhere on time every weekday, sit through things you don’t want to sit through, juggle a personal life, social life, academic responsibilities, extracurricular commitments, and possibly athletic career, face fear, self-doubt, and rejection on the daily, try to forge connections and find your place in the scheme of things, and struggle to make it through to the end without falling apart. High school is life condensed.
If you have made it through high school, you have accomplished something. It is tough, and social media and the internet have made it even tougher.
To make suppositions and critiques from afar and/or with the benefit of hindsight is one thing. To experience things for yourself, in real time, and from another person’s perspective, is quite another.
For some people, high school is a pleasant time. Like Ferris Bueller, they get the girl/boy, keep ahead of the man, enjoy good steady friendship, and come out on top smiling.
For others, high school is dreadful. Someone once said the object of war is “to survive it.” Many would say that’s the point of high school too. A burden to be borne, and as real as anything.
Standard contributor Luke Cameron can be reached at 473-2191.