High school is scary- and that’s okay

Mackenzie Bill, asst. opinions editor

I only remember one thing about my first day of freshman year of high school.

I was really, really scared.

I look back and see myself stumbling through the halls, lost during the passing period, but too scared to take out a map because I was worried that would put a big red mark on me as a confused little freshman. 

Sure, there was a flurry of excitement about a brand new school and meeting new people, but something that stuck with me was my fear of standing out and “messing up”. 

Throughout my high school experience, that fear has followed me. It has reshaped to fit with what I was going through at the time, whether that was worrying about never seeing my friends again sophomore year when our two-week spring break turned into remote learning or feeling like my future was in jeopardy if I didn’t get a good score on the ACT my junior year. 

I know that some of my fears were very similar to those of my peers. No one wants to get a bad grade on a test and everyone gets worried when introduced to something unknown. But some fears seemed so specific that I convinced myself I was the only one going through them. 

When I struggled with a not-so-nice friend group freshman year, it felt like I was the only one floating in between social groups. 

When coming back to school this year after a hiatus from social interaction, it seemed like I was the only one who sometimes felt anxious saying “Hello” to someone in the hallway, or raising my hand in class. 

Even when I was grieving a family member this year, I was scared to be vulnerable with my friends and teachers, and to let them know that I was going through a tough time. 

I am sharing these experiences with you not to scare you for the rest of your high school experience, but rather to validate these feelings if you’ve felt them yourself. 

I’ve talked with my friends and realized that we have gone through similar experiences. This was surprising, because it’s easy to put a smile on your face and pretend that everything is alright. But when one of my friends opened up about her struggles with mental health, it broke down a barrier in our friendship and we were able to delve deeper into some of our personal struggles. We were both able to feel seen and heard, and I learned that I was not alone.

Fear isn’t always bad, but when you feel like it is taking over a big part of your life or that you’re having a hard time doing the usual things you love, I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust to talk about it. I’ve found a great support system through my counselor and the social workers here at South. They’ve helped me realize that my fears and struggles are not something that I should go through alone. 

Your high school experience doesn’t have to look like a movie. It can be fun and thrilling but also scary and stressful.  Although it was difficult to conquer scary moments, a small part of me is grateful for them. By working through some of my fears and struggles with the help of people around me, I’ve come out stronger and more confident to look fear in the eye. I wish I would’ve known that, as a freshman wandering through the halls, all eyes weren’t on me, and that my peers and I were going through something similar. 

As a senior giving in to the nostalgia and bittersweetness of graduating soon, I want to say thank you to my high school experience, but I also want to say thank god it’s over. And that’s okay. I want to take the pressure off of making high school the best experience of your life. Life doesn’t always have to be joyful and great, and bad days aren’t something you should be ashamed of. 

Know that it’s okay to be scared of things. High school can be intimidating. But know that your peers are going through something similar and that there is a support system here to help you. To all the freshman, sophomores, and juniors, embrace this experience, good luck, and know that you are not alone.