How do you feel the person you were in high school differs from the person you are now? In what ways are you the same?
I feel like I was a very different person in high school. I was so afraid of confrontation and didn’t know how to navigate relationships well. That is the biggest difference to me. If someone upset me, I would freeze up and never say anything, and build so much resentment that it could kill friendships. I had no idea how to resolve conflicts – they just scared me to death. I still have lingering feelings of anxiety when someone is upset with me, or people are fighting near me. I can still freeze up or run away. But I’ve learned how to be healthy in navigating my close relationships today, and I am very proud of how far I have come.
I think there was just a lot of fear for me in high school. Fear of being embarrassed, fear of making the wrong decisions, fear of conflict, fear of the unknown. There were some intense things happening around me and my town did not have a shortage of drama. And I think I just felt out of control. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of control over what my life was like – my choices felt restricted. Once I got to college I felt so free. I could stop hanging out with certain people and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Being yourself and being original was valued. I could change majors, boyfriends, roommates… it was all up to me.
It’s hard to explain I guess. I have a lot of sad memories from high school unfortunately. Not huge catastrophic tragedy sad, but just lonely and confused sad. But who wasn’t lonely and confused in high school? I think the biggest difference is the resources I have now. I was still the same person in high school in a lot of ways: super mellow, liked to have time to myself, had lots of close girlfriends and had the same types of interests. But I didn’t know why I was feeling half of the things I was feeling. I think that’s a big part of it – once you are an adult, you get that everyone else feels the way you feel, too, and there is probably a legitimate, normal reason why you’re upset. When I was younger I didn’t get that.
For example. In my journals it is a never ending narrative of “Why do I want a boyfriend so badly? That seems shallow or something right? And why don’t I have one?” I had my first kiss at 17. I waited a long time to date anyone. But I was desperate to date at 12! I knew it was silly, and that I didn’t need a boyfriend, so I kind of beat myself up for obsessing about it so much. It confused me.
Now I’m like, look.
1. I’m just the type of person who LOVES being in a relationship. I just crave that emotional and physical intimacy (except for a period in college, but that’s another story…). I guess I have just always wanted that it in my life, since I was mature enough to understand what that might be like.
2. Since I wasn’t dating anyone I had to obsess over SOMETHING. Life is pretty boring when you can’t go anywhere or drink or meet new people.
3. I kind of get why I didn’t have a boyfriend – and it wasn’t because guys didn’t like me (which was the popular opinion in my brain for years). I didn’t like that many guys and the ones I did have crushes on I kind of knew all along that we wouldn’t work together. It took me a long time to find a guy that I felt safe enough with to actually pursue. And by the time I was 17 I had finally gained enough confidence to not care as much what people thought and to understand that I was super cute.
I wish I could tell my high school self that it’s completely normal to be acting and feeling that way. That was the big secret that I didn’t find out for a long time. That my feelings are normal and justified most of the time. It’s so simple, but it was so hard for me to learn. I’m still learning!
Every time I think about me in high school or see high school students, I have this surge of empathy and then relief. In high school I wondered if I was just kind of an unhappy person, and that’s just how I was. But I was just kind of unhappy for normal reasons. Now I am so grateful for the adult life I have – it was so worth the wait!
I know that other people loved high school – maybe your experience is kind of the opposite. You loved the lack of responsibility and now you kind of miss being a kid and just hanging out with your friends. I hope I get to read some of your responses! If you aren’t writing along, you can always chat with us in the comments about how you felt in high school. I would love to hear from you!
NEXT WEEK’S PROMPT
Do you want kids? Why or why not? When? What do you like about your life now with/without kids, versus the alternative?
Since I am staying with my sister this weekend and her beautiful children, I thought it would be fitting to ponder this one.