By Michelle O’Shea
I’ve never written one of these before, but the beginning of a school year is all about trying new things. When I was a freshman, and I read Hawk Tawk’s first edition of the year, I didn’t know what to expect. Surely the writing of high schoolers couldn’t be that good, right?
Everyone feels a bit lost in high school. At the start of my freshman year, I was definitely lost—so lost that I didn’t even grasp how stranded I was. I knew a few things about my future. I knew I wanted to live in New York City, and I knew the sooner I got there, the better. So, I made it my mission to go to college in New York, and my method of doing that was by getting a partial ride to an elite college. I had no clue what to do with the time until I got to New York, but I figured self-improvement was a good first step. I wanted to be my best self by the time I got to New York, so I could take complete advantages of all the opportunities the city would present to me.
I was incredibly shy when I was younger. And it didn’t improve much with age. By the time I reached high school, my self-confidence issues had plummeted and solidified in my 14-year-old self. I didn’t know how to be someone that people wanted to be friends with, other than what the teachers say, “Just smile and introduce yourself!” However, that doesn’t always work. So by the time mid-September rolled around, I was dying for high school advice. Upon walking out of first period on one seemingly random morning, I was surprised to see the school covered in copies of a newspaper. Further inspection showed that those papers were editions of Hawk Tawk, the school newspaper (you’re reading one now). So, I set about to read each and every article because I planned on studying journalism in college. None of the articles were particularly enlightening until I came to the editor’s desk. It read in bold font “Advice to Freshmen”, and was tagged with a picture of pencils. Right up my alley. I remember being skeptical at the time—how could a high schooler teach me anything valuable about life? But as I read through, the advice made sense and really hit home with me. Megan Castle, editor-in-chief at the time, detailed “It’s almost humorous to think back on, the amount of pressure I carried simply because I cared what other students thought, high school is temporary, we all move on, possibly never seeing these people again.
I remember in the winter of my freshman year I took a HUGE fall in the center of a hallway seniors often eat lunch in. I’d been hoping to get to gym early because it was the first day of swim unit, but my debate coach had held us in our lunch meeting later than I’d hoped. I slipped on a piece of slush, face-planted on the floor, and slid forward four feet. All of the pencils and pens came out of my bag as I slid down the hall, and as I tried to get up, I slipped again (note of advice: Uggs have no traction). The groups of people eating lunch a couple feet away from me simply watched, and the hallway passerbys didn’t stop to help, so I gathered all of my pens and pencils before trying to hurry away. Except one of the incredibly generous Seniors called out to say “You forgot a pen!” so I returned with reddened cheeks to pick it up. That memory is embarrassing to remember, sure. But I’m the only one that remembers it because no one cares. What you do in high school won’t follow you forever (unless it’s illegal), and is unlikely to be remembered even just a week after it happened.
My advice? High school isn’t a competition; it might feel that way in the beginning, but everyone is way too focused on themselves to truly bother with tearing you down. My key to success was finding a good group of friends, which luckily for me was the same group I’d had since turning 8. But realize that it’s okay to lose touch with people, and it’s okay to cut toxic people out of your life. I wish someone had told me that I’m not obligated to be friends with anyone (except myself, of course). If your friend is terrible to you, they aren’t your friend, and it’s OK to move on from them. Once you’re out of high school, it won’t matter who you were or weren’t friends with, and all of the petty drama that seems immense in the moment will be completely forgotten. Had an embarrassing moment? I doubt anyone will remember.