Student Stories

High School Nostalgia (and Why The Best Years Are Yet to Come)

I’d like to share an epiphany I had with you.  Just a few days ago, I was at a high school football game supporting my wonderful partner, who had been hired as the band director for this school.  I was watching the cheerleaders interact with the crowd while our team was huddled during a time out, and I observed the crowd’s unfortunately lukewarm response as many students in the audience focused on their personal discussions.

It reminded me of my own time in high school: of the wide circle of friends I had, the silly times we had together, and the drama that passed into our lives and wove us together during those four years.  But now, sitting on the wooden stadium benches in a high school quite unlike the one I attended, my surroundings reminded me that I am an adult, and that – according to so many popular teen shows and movies, as well as many bittersweet movies geared toward older adults – the time in high school was said to be the best years of our lives.

As though the decades and decades to follow would just be a whirlwind of lethargy and colorless days.

I supposed, as I sat there, that this notion stemmed from the idea that after high school – or more currently – after one’s undergraduate years in college, the real world sets in.  Life becomes unkind.  Presumably one’s social life dwindles to nothing, and we are left trudging from work, to sleep, and back to work the next day.  Adulthood, to the older teenager and early twenties adult, might seem like a terrifying reality stampeding into our lives instead of the independence-driven fantasy world we dreamt up in our youth.  A plunge into icy waters.  A rude awakening…

By now I’m sure you’re aware that I am being pretty melodramatic, but there is a reason for that.  Adulthood comprises the majority of our time on this planet, and it – in my humble opinion – is unacceptable to spend so much of that time pining for years that passed in the first small fraction of your life.

So.

What to do instead?  Live to the fullest.

Once I realized how perpetuated that idea was, I decided to fight back by making every year of my existence as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible, and you should to.  Discover what your passions are, make yourself into the person you’ve always wanted to be, do things that you are scared to try (sky diving, traveling to a foreign country, public speaking) and be unapologetically yourself.

How do I plan on doing this you ask?

Well, to be honest, I’m not entirely certain, but I’ve got a few ideas.

  1. Join a social club/sorority/organization for women.

I have always wanted to be a part of a strong, close-knit group of women who are brought together by a common thread.  Art and music? Political Activism? Creative Writing?  The thought of being part of such a group brings to mind feelings of unity, empowerment, and a sense of belonging, and frankly, I think that would be pretty awesome.

  1. Build my wardrobe and sense of style.

They say that your first impression is the one that really sticks with people.  I want my first impression to say plainly to people what I want them to grasp about me: someone who’s kind of intense, a bit eccentric, very colorful, concerned with conducting myself with dignity and poise, but also kind and a bit derpy as well.

That’s quite a bit to try to fit into one outfit, but they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Just imagine how expressive and telling a 3d, interactive me could be.

  1. I want to find a career or project in which I feel I can do the most good.

So much of the idea that high school (or college) are the best years of our lives is drawn up in the fact that so many find themselves stuck in an unfulfilling job.  With the caveat that there are many times in life, some I’ve already experienced myself, where it is absolutely necessary to put up with a less than stellar position in order to stay afloat, I believe that finding work that you like, that you feel you are good at, and that really makes a difference in the lives of those around you is key.

I would love to be a Political Science professor, a scholar working at a think-tank, or a writer-activist, all positions where I can use my voice, the research that I do, and my need for civil, but passionate, discourse to affect change in my community.  To make a dent in the issues of homelessness, mass incarceration, environmental degradation, and systemic inequality is the most fulfilling goal I can think of.

What about you?  What would you – will you do to make sure your life is being lived to the fullest?  The past is to be looked upon fondly, for guidance, for peace of mind, or sometimes just because.  But the present and the future, they are yours for the taking.  Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

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Catherine L. Williams

Catherine L. Williams is a graduate student in Political Science at UCLA. She loves to write and perform her poetry, and has a love-hate relationship with pie. Follow her on Instagram at @msblackcat93!