*For my 50th post, I ranted about my little sister being told not to read the Harry Potter books, and the general culture behind “reading levels” in schools. For post #100, I’m ranting about high school. I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but only a little. These are my pure, unorganized, sleep-deprived, pissed-off thoughts. Enjoy, or not. Feel free to comment at the end.
I am 15 years old right now. I’m a sophomore in high school. I’m white and I live a fairly comfortable, middle-ish-class life. I have a smart phone and a laptop to call my own. I like wearing “short” shorts and I’m a sucker for a Starbucks (though Coffee Bean is obviously better).
I am not an idiot.
Yes, I am a teenager. That doesn’t mean you get to walk all over me. That doesn’t mean you get to act like you know me before you’ve had a conversation with me. That doesn’t mean my life is easy.
I’m saying this because I encounter a lot of this on the internet and from the people all around me:
But from my point of view, high school is more like this:
Truthfully, I’m taking hard classes and doing a lot of extracurriculars.
But not as many as the person sitting next to me.
And I’m sacrificing every minute of my spare time to do more, to study harder, to impress the nameless, faceless college admittance people who will judge me based on a list of clubs and a GPA during my senior year. I’ll probably never meet these people. I’ll just be a name on a sheet to be judged against the thousands of other names-on-sheets, based on how well-rounded and dedicated we can make ourselves look in 2-D, on a sheet of paper and a carefully-worded college app.
It’s exhausting and demoralizing and I have three more years of this.
I feel like I’m trapped in a culture of impossible expectations, where you have to perfect every minute of every day and fit 25 hours into a 24 hour day and never sleep and sacrifice a goat every full moon just to get into college.
Then you get to pay for college, but that’s its own pile of impossible.
And on top of that, I’m a high schooler. I’m “supposed” to be dating and having friends and going to football games. Now is when I’m supposed to learn not just encyclopedias worth of information, but also how to be a social, semi-mature adult.
Because clearly the portion of your life that asks you to learn to deal with no sleep, hormones, new social orders, homework, and extracurriculars is “easy.”
If you spend your entire life studying, you’re shamed for “not having a life” or for being a “try hard”–not just from your peers, but also the random teachers, parents, and adults that decide to give you their personal opinion on your life.
Then there is the countering view of teenagers many adults have, in which all of us ages 13 to 18 only care about boy friends and texting and not chipping a nail. We are antisocial for the heck of it, rude to authority, and probably on drugs.
You see the problem?
Interacting with adults is probably the most frustrating part of my life right now. I really try to engage people in conversation, and I genuinely like having discussions with adults.
Until this happens:
- I mention that school is stressful/tiring/intense or any of the other millions of adjectives I could think of and they try to tell me high school either “isn’t hard” or “isn’t a big deal” or that I “don’t need to try so hard” or that I shouldn’t “stress myself out so much” or that I should try “working smart, not hard”–Basically that it’s all in my head, or at least all my own fault that my life is stressful. And not that in glorifying colleges like Harvard and Yale they are perpetuating a society that demands this of me.
- I try to engage in a mature conversation about something going on in the world and the adult either A) stops listening and just plain starts talking to someone else, B) barely pays attention to me and obviously thinks I’m an idiot–Because I’m just a teenager (drugs and Starbucks, remember?), and I could never understand what is going on outside the world of Forever XXI sales or hot guys (Even though I’m on freaking speech and debate, people! This is my thing!)
I work hard by default. I care a lot about my grades, and a lot less about how my school does in a football game or what filters people use on Instagram. My life is my choice, yes, but also the byproduct of a society that demands 110% of me every day without giving me any credit for surviving it.
This is the message high school students hear (with helpful translations for adults, or people from other countries with different systems):
If you want to get into college, you need to take as many AP (advanced placement–AKA college level classes) as possible, get A’s in the class and 5’s on the AP exam (a big test in May that tests you on everything you learned in your AP class, graded from 1-5, you need a 3 or higher to get the college credit, 5 is the best possible, and basically impossible). You need to have hundreds of hours of community service, have leadership positions in as many clubs as possible, and be well-rounded, so try learning a sport and an instrument and another language, if you can fit it into your schedule.
High schoolers hear this everywhere: from teachers, school meetings, the internet, word-of-mouth, even parents.
But parents are under some delusion that the above requirements are easy.
Things I’ve been told by my family, or other adults in my life:
- In the US, it’s really easy to get into college. (What US do you live in?)
- You don’t need to be perfect, you can just go to a UC. (Just?! WTF people? They are some of the best colleges in the country!!!!)
- You stress yourself out too much about school. (Oh, maybe because it’s STRESSFUL?)
- I’m sure you don’t need to spend that much time on a weekend working on homework. (My vain efforts to get ahead on the weekends so that I can breathe during the week should never be scorned.)
I’m so tired of it. And all my friends are given similar “pep talks” by adults.
THEY AREN’T ENCOURAGING, PEOPLE!
I don’t want to demonize adults. I have some great ones in my life.
But seriously, my life is stressful. Can I please be allowed to talk about it? So many times, an adult will ask me how school is going, and then as soon as I try to actually engage them in a conversation about what is going on in my life (usually up-coming tests, frustrating teachers, or big projects) they shut me down, deciding it’s a good time to remind me that all the stress is in my head or that I’m working myself to hard. Like, thanks, I’ll try to remember that, along with 100+ facts about the Protestant Reformation for the test I have tomorrow.
And yeah, I pretty much only talk about school. But my life is school. I see my friends at school. All my clubs are at school. Almost every funny thing that happens to me happens at school.
I enjoy school, even though it’s a little Stockholm’s Syndrome-y. Yeah, I have a lot on my plate–but I also have a big appetite. I want to talk about school, and have someone listen.
So if you’re an adult out there, and you want to help your kid or your niece or your student survive high school? Don’t tell us it’s easy. Let us rant, get it all out. If we decide to try to talk to you, embrace it, please.
And don’t you dare blame us for making our lives hard if you would like your kids to go to a good college. That’s not fair.
Stop assuming I’m shallow because I was born fifteen years ago. Stop calling my generation the worst generation in the history of life, when some one us (A LOT of us) are actually trying really freakin’ hard to overcome your expectations.
Stop telling me the hardest thing I’ve ever been asked to do is easy.
I’ll play your game, but at least admit that there is a game going on.