From High School to College (To All My Twelfth Grade Friends)

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.”

–  C.S. Lewis


If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, then you’ll perhaps remember getting a bombardment of posts from me one year ago starting around now. It was my last week of high school, and I took advantage of the craziness to share my thoughts on my favorite high school novels, common hallways behaviors that annoy me, and most of all, what it’s like to move up the grades.

In myfirst post during that famous week—the one on May 13th—I ended it with this:

I’ll close this by saying one last thing. Earlier, I mentioned that I often wonder where I’ll be in the future. So I think I’ll take this opportunity to do it again, on my blog this time: I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. One year today, on May 13th.

Hey look! It’s been a year already!

But more than that, I’ve been hearing a lot of current seniors start to reflect on what it’s like to leave high school, to grow up and make that transition to college. Well, for anyone wondering what that feels like, I’ll do my best to lay it all out.

To my awesome twelfth grade friends:

One year ago today, I was where you are now. I was beginning the end of my high school career. I was absolutely full of excitement, because I only had seven days left in this hellhole known as twelfth grade, and I knew exactly where I was going to college, and I was so ready to get out of here and have the best summer ever and go off to a new place to make new memories.

But, I was also scared.

Not at this point, so much. I was scared of what it’d be like to say goodbye to everyone, but it wasn’t time for that yet. I still had the summer.

The last week of high school is going to feel exactly how you think it will. It’ll be full of wrap-ups in your classes, early grade closings, and perhaps last-minute projects from your crueler teachers. Your lack of motivation to do these projects will be spectacular.

When that last day finally comes, you’re going to be in shock. At first, you’ll be surprised how normal the day seems. You walk through the front doors like usual, meet up with your friends like any other day, and go to your classes.

But then the goodbyes kick in. You have to look at the classmates who you’ve sat with this whole year or maybe more, and tell them goodbye permanently. No, “see you in the halls next year.”

The close friends? Those goodbyes aren’t rough, not yet. You’re going to see them this summer! You can hang out whenever you want! The worst kind of goodbye is that kid who’s been your lab partner all year who still has a few years of high school left. Or your chorus classmates who are still underclassmen. All those people who you’re friendly with, but you aren’t close enough to see each other outside of school.

The last day of high school goes on, and you find yourself more and more in shock. You’re really leaving this place. This is the last time you’ll hear the school bell, or jam yourself through the hallway.

Before you know it, the final bell rings, and that’s it. You’re done with high school forever. And now is when the feels really kick in.

For me, the trigger was saying goodbye to my favorite teacher, who had constantly been there for me since literally day one in the building. Holy crap, was day one really four YEARS ago? It seems like just yesterday you were a scared freshman sitting in advisory trying to look like you couldn’t care less about fitting in, when really it was the most important thing in the world.

But! Good news: your feels dissolve at the first grad practice. Tedious rehearsals have a way of igniting your for-the-love-of-Jesus-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mentality. That mentality persists all the way until you walk across the stage and get handed your diploma.

Senior week will perhaps become the best week of your life. It was for me, at least. My friends and I opted for an alcohol-free beach trip that still has some of my favorite memories. It’s certainly worth celebrating: you’re done with high school! Finally!

The summer after high school goes exactly how you think it will. You hang out with your friends more than you ever have before, because you know you don’t have much time left. There’s a ticking clock, and it feels like it keeps ticking faster.

Around the end of July, you start to realize how little time is left. Your parents keep nagging you about shopping for dorm supplies. You’ve met your future roommates, or perhaps you already knew them. And eventually—sooner than you wanted—your friends start leaving.

Most of the goodbyes are simple, unexpected; platonic, even. “We’ll video chat every week, right?”

But there’s always those one or two goodbyes that you’ve been dreading all summer, those one or two people who have been your lifeline for years and who you can’t even imagine living without seeing or talking to every single day.

Seniors, I’m here to tell you those goodbyes will be every bit as painful as you’re imagining them to be. You’ll hang out with those special people one last time. Pretend you don’t have to say goodbye. But then you will, and you’ll watch them drive away one last time, then you’ll go to your room and realize that for all of your wanting to leave high school, you never appreciated just how much you had while you were there.

Perhaps that painful goodbye is someone who’s more than a friend. Maybe it’s the person who you met and instantly clicked with, and you just wonder how you can meet someone who’s so right for you, then be forced to leave them behind.

I know that feeling, because I had it last summer. I had a perfect girlfriend, one who I got a crush on the second day of ninth grade but only had the opportunity to date for the last six months of it. And I had to make that painful goodbye, since she—in what I later realized was the smartest move ever—opted to not try the long distance thing.

That goodbye feeling is indescribable.

And finally, before you know it, it’s your turn to go. And you do. And that’s that.

Seniors, college is everything you’re imagining it to be. And it’s also a place where everything you imagined happens in a completely unexpected way. You make new friends who you didn’t think existed. You keep in touch with the old ones.

Some of the olds ones change for the worse, exactly like you’re afraid they will. And you stop talking to them. And you let them go, even though that was the thing you were afraid of doing the most.

And afterwards, you’re okay.

I say all of this because I experienced every bit of it. I had that amazing Senior week. I made those painful goodbyes. I met those new friends. And I let go of several old ones, people who changed so much that I didn’t even know who they were anymore. And it was so much easier than I’d imagined.

And now I’m here. It’s my last week of my freshman year of college, everyone. And it’s been the best school year of my life. Yes, there have been a few rough patches. But I’ve had so many good times and so many new friends. And you have to trust that you will too, even if it means parting with the people who you don’t think you can live without.

Because you can. I promise.

To all of my friends about to graduate high school: live it up now and never forget how good this part of your life is. And have that best summer ever. And believe that you’re moving on to amazing things, because you are.

Trust me, I know.


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