If only we could all go back to high school. If only we had the hindsight we have now back then. If only we could wrap up 25 years of life experience, stuff it in our yoga pants, and wake up in 1988, just think how differently we would go through a typical high school day.
I’m currently watching my sons wade cautiously through their high school years. I offer and give advice when asked and tell them my “way back when” stories, but I know I can’t truly reach the psyche of a typical teenager with “If I could go back…” anecdotes. All the stresses teens have in high school now, the pressures, the responsibilities—it’s all I can do to not just stand on a table and belt out my best “Carpe diem!” to my kids in the hope they will fully embrace the time they have left in high school.
Given the chance to go back to high school again, I’d certainly do a few things a little differently:
1. Enjoy the hell out of P.E. class. Fifty minutes of uninterrupted exercise every single day? With a teacher/trainer? In a gym, on a track, in a weight room, a tennis court or a softball field? Heck, yeah! I would also try out for and attempt to play every sport offered. I would throw previous adolescent body image issues to the wind and attack phys ed class with more zeal than a Kenyan at a marathon start line. Bring it.
2. Be a better girlfriend…to my girl friends. No more boy chasing, boy stalking, boy obsessing. Nope. Just me and my gal pals. Because I know now those times will soon become few and far between. The bonding that can only be shared between girlfriends I will honor, cherish and respect. Boyfriends can wait. And wait. And wait. They will be there when I’m ready. I know this to be very true.
3. Love the teachers. Back then, they seemed like the enemy. Now? I know they chose a career that pays pennies, gets zero respect, but changes lives every day. I know they have spouses, kids, private battles and bills. I’d be sitting at the head of the class, smiling and absorbing every single morsel of whatever it is they are teaching me. Free clarinet lessons in band class? Sure! Acting class? Yep. Auto mechanics? Oh, hell yes. And ooh the English teachers! Imagine being able to talk books with those people now? Bliss. But math? No thanks. (See below.)
4. Find my niche and not apologize for it. If there is one thing I did realize back in high school, it was that math and science were not my thing. Sadly, I was too ashamed to admit it. All the smart kids did math and science; reading fiction wasn’t considered cool. Writing? Who on earth did that? I can see myself going back now and boldly telling my geometry teacher that I am 100 percent certain the next time I’ll need to use a formula dealing with angles will be in 15 years, at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, while trying to assemble a toy from IKEA. Now can I be excused to go talk more about Brontë with the school librarian?
5. Talk to the Others. The geeks, the freaks, the goth kids, the drama club members—all the types I didn’t engage with before, I would be enamored with now. I would want to meet everyone, to see what makes them tick, to listen to their music, to learn their talents, to be their friend. Think of the amazing types of people you are great friends with now. They’re possibly the same type you probably ignored in high school. Another chance to befriend them? Yes, please.
My oldest will start his senior year of high school next week. I have no idea if he will graduate with regret and what ifs and should haves. If he does, I think I am OK with that. Because next up will be college, a place where he has even said to me is “the perfect time to reinvent myself.” You got that right, buddy. Now if I could go back to college? Well, no need to. It was perfect the first time (No cell phone cameras. Whew).