Image: Yara Shahidi and Rowan Blanchard for Teen Vogue

Image: Yara Shahidi and Rowan Blanchard for Teen Vogue

Written by Cher Valentine

When I first entered high school I was petrified for a multitude of reasons; I had no friends, I felt socially awkward, I still had to figure out the kind of person I wanted to be, and I listened to Ariana Grande, One Direction, and Five Seconds of Summer exclusively. It wasn’t until the first day of school that I knew what high school was really about.

High school shapes you for the world and prepares you for the test trial of life that is college. You learn your likes and dislikes in high school, the types of people you should be friends with, and the types of people that would be better off as acquaintances. High school changes you and allows you to build social attributes that will enhance your life; it is supposed to give you experiences that shape you into the best possible person you can be before you move on.

My high school experiences have been chaotic and bustling. With a slow burning on again/off again crush of three years, a sport that overtook the majority of my life, and teachers whose main goal is to seemingly watch me fail, I feel like a long movie with sparks of entertainment but for the most part is just footage of a teenager with draining eyes; the Academy Award winner for worst dramatic film. I find comfort in my orderly life. I feel safe with my standard female English teacher, the only core teacher who wants me to grow. I’m at ease with my faux argumentative friendships, and am comfortable with the toxic theatrical fights I have with my supposed best friend. That’s what I thought I would have forever until the end of this year and I’d grown accustomed to my melodramatic high school experience... but I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I was listening to music I thought was cool but never really spoke to me. I cared about all the latest gossip and started listening to the cool songs on the radio. Singing along to the lyrics of Summertime Sadness that everyone and their mom knows.

In high school you are either who you are supposed to be or you’re the clone of those you surround yourself with. You become the people around you and fit yourself in with the crowd. Your true personality hidden behind a mask.

I became mean and uncomfortable. Insecurities ate me alive and the theatre loving, book nerd trying to crawl her way out. I wanted to learn and write, but my peers wanted me to have boy drama and teen angst while listening to MGK. When I wanted nothing but Disney movies, Broadway musicals, and journaling, but my social status called me to twitter and instagram to see what everyone else wanted. It wasn’t until I met a fellow theatre loving book nerd that I realized how unhappy I was with my life because of trying so hard to change who I was. I wanted to learn and grow as a person; find what I love and dive in head first. She showed me the type of person I wanted to be. She introduced me to a new way of life where you don’t care what everyone else wants but you’re still kind and you still care about others. She was the Rowan Blanchard and Yara Shahidi of my high school experience.

Presently I find comfort in writing, telling stories and releasing my emotions through written dialog. I learn more when I write than I do when I talk to the people I have around me; I find all anxiety slipping through my fingers and onto the keyboard, forming words and sentences, allowing me to talk in paragraphs instead of tears. I listen to Hawaiian music and Camila Cabello when I feel nervous and alone. I’ve become who I feel is the better version of myself and when I learned my escape and coping method, I believe I found myself becoming smarter. Rather than being the mean, sarcastic, unapproachable, and insecure person I was just six months ago; I am a happy, kind, feminist. I realized who I wanted to be and completely changed how I acted. My faux argumentative friendship turned into a legitimate conversational and trusting friendship, where I can look at them with tears streaming down my face and instantly feel better and at ease. My toxic friendship is slowly dissolving to a point where we can try to fix things and become a better duo. My teacher is seeing my development as a writer and a student and allowing me to branch out, preparing me for the next test in life.

My development, characteristically, from six months ago is proof that no one stays the same forever. Realization strikes at some point and, if they want to, people can actually change for the better. Depression can end, judgemental stages can transition into open-mindedness and understanding. You should never judge someone by who they were three years ago because you have changed from who you were three years ago, and they probably have too. Give second chances to those who have wronged you to see if they have truly changed, if they haven’t then you can’t say you held a grudge.

People can change, no matter how mean they once were or how crazy their life once was. There is hope that everyone can better themselves to be kind and think for others; to be the happiest version of themselves. High school prepares you for the real life test trial that is college, or life itself. It changes you and shapes you to be the best version you can be at such a young age. I went into my freshman year of high school a lonely, social outcast. Now, I go into my senior year of high school a happy, outgoing, relaxed, feminist. I am changed because of my high school experience and my high school experience is changed because of me.