by Laurie Medina, Guest Contributor
The start of the new school year brings a whirlwind of activity — cramming in the last hurrahs of the summer, finishing those last chapters of your summer reading book, adjusting to a normal sleep schedule (which is much harder than you think!), getting all of your school supplies and textbooks. But in addition to preparing your bookbag, it’s time to prepare your heart for high school.
If you’re anything like me, your mind is racing at a thousand miles a minute. Will you make good friends? Will you fit in? What clubs will you join? Is high school drama really as vicious as the TV shows portray it to be?
Beneath all our questions and fears is a deep desire to belong and make the most of your high school experience. Maybe you have really high expectations of what the next four years will be like and I can hardly blame you because I know the pressure of constant comparison to your peers and expectations of personal, academic, and social success.
Maybe you just want to survive and get by unscathed. I mean, anything has to be better than middle school, right? While I can’t guarantee that high school will be all smooth sailing (no stage of life really is), I can reassure you that the feelings you have about this next big step in your life are valid and no matter how you feel, you can walk into high school courageously.
You Are Not Alone
Everyone — no matter how much confidence they exude — is scared in their own way. The people you see in your classes are fighting their own battles, have their own insecurities, and are just as worried about finding their place in the world as you are. Take comfort in the fact that you’re all going through a big transition together and use it as an opportunity for real connection!
Your family, youth minister, older friends, etc., want to support you in any way they can. If it seems like you have nobody to talk to, the Lord is there, waiting to take on your burdens and make them light. He has not abandoned you and He will never leave you, even if you feel that everyone else has. You are endlessly and relentlessly loved by a Father who desires your good.
You Will Find Friends
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2
It is completely and totally OK to be on your own for awhile at the start of high school, and it is OK if you drift apart from the friends you made in junior high. The Lord knows your desire for community and will fulfill that desire — but on His time, not yours. For now, get to know the people around you. Start by introducing yourself to a classmate or joining a club. There will always be the chance that you’ll be rejected by others, but even greater is the chance that you’ll find someone you click with and maybe even become best friends with.
As the year goes on, cliques will naturally begin to form. While it may feel like you’re constantly on the outside looking in, it’s much better to be unapologetically and authentically yourself — even if that means you’re on the outside — than to pretend to be someone you’re not.
You Are His
Perhaps the most important thing I can say to you as you enter high school is this: Your identity lies in being completely loved by the Father. Yes, your grades matter. Yes, it is good to be involved in extracurricular activities. Yes, it is good to try out for the sports team or aspire for leadership positions. Yes, it is good to strive to do your best in everything you do. Yes, it’s good to build a community and find your niche.
But what really matters is the “why” behind everything you do. Are you only working hard for good grades because you want to be known as the best? Are you applying for this position just because it will look good on your college applications? Are you volunteering because you want to seem like a good person? Are you hanging with that crowd because they’re “cool” and you want to be cool, too?
These things matter, but they should never become your identity. High school will end. The things of this world will pass away, but your identity as a beloved child of God endures forever. If you stay rooted in this identity and abide in His love, you will never be led astray.
And just in case you’re wondering what other people would have told their 14-year-old selves, check out what some of my friends had to say:
“Stay strong in your beliefs and always be kind. Don’t just get good grades to benefit your future! Instead, why not do well now because it feels good to do well? Do well now because you want to be successful in life now. Don’t worry so much about the future. Focus on the present. Focus on how it feels to show up to class with your homework completed. Focus on how it feels good to get good grades on tests because you studied. Stay in the present and leave everything else up to God.”
“Trust God completely.”
“Try something new.”
“If you ever find yourself clinging to something in high school that you don’t recognize yourself without, you should take a step back because at some point you’ll realize what things matter and what things you will have to let go of.”
“Even if you don’t believe in God, He believes in you.”
“I wish I knew the beauty of growth and change — that what I thought was cool my freshman year is so different to what now brings me joy years later, and that is OK!”
“High school will be challenging, and the feelings you have are valid. But it’s important to balance those struggles with the truth and to hold on to that.”
“Please get involved in your parish, even if it’s uncomfortable; always give grace to your youth minister and thank them for everything they do.”
Laura Medina is a saint-in-progress with a missionary heart and a passion for merging Catholic ministry with mental health care. You can find her on Instagram @wrappedinhermantle.