Everyone who’s been through high school knows it’s nothing like the movies. The pressure to fit in, excel academically, and navigate social dynamics can be overwhelming. High school was especially brutal for me because junior year, the person I thought was my best friend and who also happened to be my co-captain of the soccer team, decided to find another best friend and turned everyone against me. For the next two years, I felt isolated and constantly anxious and depressed. It didn’t help that everyone said high school was supposed to be the best time of our lives, and all I could do was count the days until it was over.
I’m writing this to say to anyone who’s not loving high school–or who’s even actively hating it—it gets better later on!
I remember going through my high school graduation ceremony thinking, I can’t wait to get out of here and never see these people again. I did have some great teachers, but socially, I felt emotionally scarred by the experience. I wondered what would happen if college was just as bad.
After almost two years in college, my life looks completely different. From the moment I stepped on campus, I felt like I had found my place and my community. I knew how to make better decisions about which people would become my friends, and who I would trust. I got involved in activities I truly enjoyed, and made strong friendships with like-minded people with similar passions. Once we started sharing our lives, I learned that many of them didn’t love high school either. Many of them hated it, for all kinds of reasons.
But my newfound happiness extended beyond my social life. I found teachers who were real mentors, and I was actually excited about coursework and felt challenged in a way I never had before. Now that we didn’t have to take the AP curriculum, which I found boring, I got to choose classes I enjoyed instead of taking classes I used to have to take just for college applications. I could explore subjects that were genuinely exciting. And unlike high school, college provided a safe space to go outside of my comfort zone. I joined an intramural volleyball team even though I’d never played, and it’s been one of the most fun ways to get some exercise, de-stress, and hang out with people I love.
Back in high school, I hoped that college would be better, but I had no idea how completely it would change my life and give me a fresh start. Now I live and study and participate in activities with people who are my family away from my actual family, and I’ve never been happier.
When I came home for break recently, I realized how far I’ve come from that girl who dreaded waking up every day and counted the minutes until high school was over.
So remember: things can change for the better. If you’re really struggling, reach out to adults for help. I don’t think I would have gotten through those awful years of high school without my parents’ support, but you can also reach out to a school counselor or other adult you trust. And keep in mind that while most people idealize the high school years, it’s such a small chapter in your life even though it feels big at the time.
You do have the power to find your people and community if you just wait until that great next chapter begins!