Tomorrow is number 11. Your 11th first day of school. I’ll never forget your first. You wore a white oxford shirt, a khaki dress, and black Mary Janes. Your K-4 teacher asked all of the students in your class to bring their favorite teddy bear on the first day. She said the bears would offer the comforts of home when all of the Moms packed away their cameras and left for work. You were the line leader that day, holding your teddy, your red Land’s End backpack snug on your shoulders, marching toward your new classroom. You were so brave.
Tonight though, you had butterflies in your tummy before you went to bed. You took several deep breaths and told me you were nervous. It was tough to hold back my tears. You see, I am nervous, too because I know that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow is number 11. Tomorrow you are officially in high school. But before you go, I’ve put together a list of 11 things you’ll need to know.
1. Stay Involved
From sports, and clubs, to student government, school plays, homecoming, and charity events high school will provide so many opportunities for you to be and stay involved. These opportunities will not only leave you with lifelong lessons and memories, but they are the perfect way to meet new friends, and in high school, you can never have enough friends!
2. Have School Spirit
Being involved in student life will also teach you a thing or two about school spirit. You will learn to love your school, its culture, and what your school stands for. Wear your school colors, learn the Alma mater, cheer from the sidelines and from the stands, paint your face, and be proud to call yourself an Emerald Viking. The sense of community you will gain you will cherish for the rest of your life.
3. School Lunch Will Not Kill You
Regardless of what the Republicans tell you, you will not fall out eating the Michelle Obama school lunch. In fact, these lunches will better prepare you for your college years where you will likely live off of Ramen Noodles, off-brand Hot Pockets and Nutella sandwiches.
4. Your Teachers Can Be Your Best Allies
Don’t dismiss your teachers as simple dictators who are only trying to make your high school years miserable. I promise they are not trying to ruin your life. Develop a friendship and a mutual respect. Do what is asked of you to the very best of your ability. Do not offer excuses. Be honest. And when days are tough, your teachers will be your friends. Rely on them. Ask for help. Thank them.
5. Enjoy Reading
Forget Cliff’sNotes and searching Netflix for The Scarlet Letter or The Great Gatsby. Actually, read the books, and enjoy reading them. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, and William Shakespeare and from these you will learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.
Be true to yourself. Optimism is perhaps the most noble of all traits. You truly can’t judge a book by its cover.
You’ll thank me later.
6. Make Friends With The Friendless
It may take some time but eventually you will find your place in high school. Others won’t be so lucky. You will see the girl who’s always alone during lunch, sitting propped against a brick wall somewhere, her book bag still on her back. And you’ll pass by that weird guy in the hall, the one everyone laughs at because his hair is unkempt and his shoelaces are untied. But you should be his friend. Say hello. Smile. Ask how his day is going. Offer him a place at your lunch table. Everyone deserves a friend and regardless of where life takes him, he will always remember the girl who said hello while everyone else was laughing.
7. Speak Your Mind
Don’t let life just happen. When you see injustices, speak! Do not tolerate the bullies, whether student or teacher. Recognize wrong. Insist on fair play. Demand respect. Stand up for yourself. Always stand up for yourself!
8. Be A Leader
Do right because it is right and lead others to do the same. While it’s much easier to follow, followers are often left behind. Be ahead of the pack and make your own way.
9. We’re All The Same
Whether freshman or senior, black or white, gay or straight, smart or challenged, jock or nerd…we are all the same. You are no better than any one of the people who you will sit beside in class each day and none are better than you. Just like you, they all face challenges. They all deal with peer pressure and pressure from their parents at home. They all worry about their grades and if they will be asked to the prom this year. They all want to be liked at school and fear being made fun of. They are all kids, just trying their very best to make it through these next four years in one piece. Talk to them and you’ll see. Each and every one understands exactly what you are going through.
10. These Will Be The Best Years Of Your Life
You will learn more over the next four years than you have in all of your school years combined. But aside from the academics you will learn life. You will learn love and loss. You will learn about true friendship and you’ll learn hurt – deep, ruthless hurt. You will learn how priceless a good belly laugh with a best friend is. You will learn how to say no even when it’s uncomfortable. You will learn to make mistakes gracefully. And you will learn to learn from your mistakes. You will learn community. You will learn humility. You will learn sleepless nights, hard work, tears, and sweat. You will learn failure and you will learn the satisfaction of earned success. Embrace all of these. Take each moment as it comes. Don’t rush a single second, because they are fleeting. Before you know it you will be playing your last volleyball game and attending your last football game. You will return your last library book, eat your last school lunch, and dance at your last school prom. Too soon you will be taking your last exam and planning your last Friday night out with your friends. In just four short years you will close your locker and you will walk through the doors of that school for the very last time. And then all you’ll have left will be the memories…the memories from the best years of your life. Have fun. Play smart. Work hard. Enjoy every moment.
11. I Love You!