Looking Back on High School With Smiles and Sadness

By Elie Dessart

As the school year winds down, the realization that high school is coming to an end brings a variety of emotions – gratefulness for the people I’ve met along the way, sadness to have to say goodbye, anxiousness on what the next four years will bring and excitement to embark on a new journey. 

High school started off rocky. Going into freshman year, I was eager to leave the confinements of middle school and ready to enjoy the new freedoms. However, transitioning wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. It became harder to balance school with extracurriculars, and while there were more freedoms, I managed my time pretty poorly.

The first two years were particularly challenging. As an introvert, I easily became lost in a big school, and while many friends rushed to sign up for clubs and attend football games, I wasn’t as comfortable with putting myself out there. By the end of sophomore year, I still hadn’t found my niche and struggled to keep up both academically and socially. 

Then, the summer before my junior year, I moved from New Jersey to New York. Although I was nervous, I was also excited for a fresh start, and with the new environment, I told myself I would be different, too. Over the course of these past two years, I went to school plays, joined several clubs, established a core group of friends and was ultimately much happier than I had been prior to moving.

As I reflect on my high school experience, here is some advice to younger students.

First, know that you don’t have to be fearless to be courageous. It’s okay if you’re afraid to put yourself out there, and it’s okay if you’re afraid of the unknown. But your fears don’t define you, and it’s never too late to face them. After moving, I found that trying something new, even though it may have been out of my comfort zone at the time, led to incredible experiences.

For example, I had always loved writing, but it wasn’t until my junior year that I decided to join the school newspaper. I didn’t know any of the writers at the time, but together we worked to deliver stories to the community. What was once a typical news site quickly grew into a platform for self-expression, innovation and creativity.

Eventually, I started contributing a column to The Examiner, despite my initial worries that an outside newspaper wouldn’t accept a young high school student. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share my voice with so many others. If there’s a passion you have, I encourage you to pursue it. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you let your fears empower you instead of hold you back. 

Second, trust yourself and the people around you. If there’s one thing I wish I knew going into high school, it’s that asking for help is normal. Your teachers and peers are there to support you, and whether you’re falling behind in a class, struggling to balance your workload or having trouble making friends, you don’t have to go through it alone. There will always be people who have your back, and if you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Later on in high school, you’ll probably face a lot of setbacks. Maybe you won’t score as high as you had hoped on the SAT, maybe you won’t get into your dream college. These hurdles are inevitable, but you have a community that’ll help you get over it. Believe in yourself, and believe in them.

Third, make sure to have fun. It may be cliché, but time does disappear quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be a senior reflecting on your experience. It’s normal to get caught up in the stress and competitiveness of high school, but try not to let it consume you. Instead of going out to lunch with my friends, I often stayed in the library to study. On the weekends, instead of catching a movie or taking a trip to the mall, I’d finish assignments weeks before they were due, afraid that if I didn’t get ahead, I’d quickly fall behind.

Now that I’m about to graduate, I wish I hadn’t directed all my time and energy toward studying. While your schoolwork should be a priority, it shouldn’t stop you from going out and making memories with your friends because these are the moments you’ll cherish the most. Go to football games, go to prom, cheer loudly, and dance unapologetically. 

High school, like many things in life, won’t be a straight path; there will be mistakes and frustrations along the way. But your time will also be one of immense growth, new beginnings and self-discovery. You have the power to make your experience unforgettable. Don’t be afraid to live in the moment.

Ellie Dessart is a senior at Bronxville High School. Her monthly column, Inside the Mind of a Teen, examines and addresses the issues pertaining to teenagers at both the local and global level.