The last day of high school. It’s a day filled with mixed emotions. But perhaps just for me. As I sat amongst my peers, I heard very straightforward confirmations of their feelings towards being done with schooling: they were either ecstatic to be finished or already missing it all.
For me, I’m not sure. There are plenty of aspects of school that we all despise. Always the endless amount of homework, impossible tests, and that teacher which everyone always tried to avoid. Yet at the same time, I feel that I’ll find myself missing the fun classes, the teachers who were more like everyone’s best friends, getting in trouble with friends. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s this: I’ve learned a lot. And not just stuff out of a textbook.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I see high school as a test run of life. You have four years to figure out just who you are, and it takes a lot longer than you might think. Lot of stressful assignments, lot of awkward dances, breakups, and ends of friendships that should’ve lasted a lifetime. I don’t think most people realize it, but you go through a LOT in those four “short” years, and consequently, you change a lot from who you were as a scared freshman to a striding senior ready to take on the world. That can be a good or bad transformation, and it all depends on whether or not you see any areas of your life that you feel could use some improvement.
I certainly did. I distinctly remember the freshman and sophomore Jake. I hated him. OK, maybe that’s a little harsh (sorry me). What I mean is, there were certain ways in which I was doing things that I didn’t like. I was never very confident my first couple years of high school, and it took me another two years to realize this. I didn’t speak up when I had something to say, when I did muster the courage to speak, no one would hear me, I’d avoid eye contact with people for too long because it made me feel uncomfortable. A lot of things intimidated me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe that’s part of being a scared and confused underclassman, but I didn’t like it. I wanted to change. So I did.
From the first day of senior year, I made a conscious effort to do things that scare me. When I had a question to ask or an opinion to share, I spoke up, and I made sure everyone heard me. Instead of shying away from others’ gazes, I looked them in the eyes when speaking to them (no, not for a really long and creepy amount of time, but long enough to show the other person that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say). When an opportunity presented itself for me to tell a joke or ask for clarification on something, I jumped on it, instead of letting myself hesitate and overthink the situation. And in doing so, I made a drastic change. I’ve improved social skills and mustered confidence that I simply didn’t have when I was younger.
What do you call this? Reinventing yourself. Recognizing those qualities and habits you possess that you dislike, and taking the necessary steps to change them.
We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of, there are always certain things about us that we don’t particularly like. It’s part of being human.
But we’re never stuck. We can start over at any time. So maybe yesterday wasn’t so great. As long as you’re honest with yourself and recognize the mistakes you made, you can learn from them, and in doing so, be a different person from whom you were yesterday. You can reinvent yourself.
A lot of people feel that the past is often what defines them, but I disagree. It’s what we do once we’ve learned from the lessons of the past that determines who we will be.