Two more days in the States. But I don’t want to spend much time writing about that, because what is there to say, really? I’ve been waiting five months–well, much longer than that if we’re counting from when I started my application–for my Peace Corps service, and now it’s finally almost here. Suffice it to say that I am ready. Get me out of here.
Interestingly, the most difficult part of preparing to leave hasn’t just been the emotional or mental challenges, but packing–or more accurately, consolidating my entire life into two suitcases and an Osprey backpack. (So far, I have only cried once about my shoes not fitting in my luggage.) This involves going through every item I own, sorting them into piles, and deciding what to store and what to trash. My mother pulled out a stack of high school yearbooks that had been lurking in some unknown closet, pushed them toward me, and said, “You need to do something with these.” I thumbed through them, not sure what my response would be, as I caught glimpses of notes from people I no longer kept in touch with and my own portraits with the awkward haircuts and unflattering outfits. (Why did I think camouflage print was cute???)
Like most fairly intelligent and mature people, high school was not the highlight of my life. (COLLEGE WINS. THE END.) That’s not to say I didn’t have some good times with good people, but the bad outweighs the good in my memory, and here’s why: while I should’ve kept my head down and established the reputation of a loveable nerd, I spent at least two years trying to be like everyone else. 1) I bought in to the backwards attitude that if I did what everyone else did, looked how everyone else looked, and liked the things everyone else liked, that I would be “cool,” 2) I kissed the asses of “cool” people to accomplish agenda #1, and 3) I didn’t pay mind to how I treated those who weren’t “cool” in order to further accomplish agenda #1.
Lots of people who went to high school with me will tell you this isn’t true (maybe some of them will), but that’s because it was mostly an internal process. I was no Regina George, and I wasn’t even hot enough to be Cady Heron–it’s not like I terrorized the school. Basically, I was just sixteen–and that age comes with its own unique maladies. I was impressionable. I was insecure. I had no perspective. We all think we’re going to be sixteen forever when we’re sixteen.
Some of you might be nodding your heads as you read this. If you’re not, you’re either a) lucky that you didn’t go through this phase, or b) you still ARE in this phase and will probably never escape it, so go feed your illegitimate child. No, not with that bottle, that’s the one with absinthe in it that you took to the rave last night.
So you can see why revisiting the harmlessly catty, slightly obnoxious, approval-hungry, overall embarrassing Me was simultaneously amusing and unsettling. I looked back on my jagged auburn bangs that I insisted on cutting myself and wondered, if I could go back and give my hapless teenage self any advice, what would it be?
I present to you: 25 Things I Wish I’d Known in High School, a sort-of prequel to my 25 Things I Learned in College. Some of these tips give the impression that I’m an old lady yelling at my teenage self to get off my own lawn (?), but others of them are pretty solid and, honestly, things I can improve upon to this day:
- Don’t waste time pining after a boy who doesn’t feel the same way about you. If he doesn’t like you the way you are, he never will.
- You’ve got your whole life left to live. You will only keep a handful of these friends after graduation, so don’t invest too deeply in anyone until you know who the good ones are.
- Trust the actions of others more than their words. Learn what a “red flag” is and respond to them.
- That metal music you listen to is garbage and you’ll be embarrassed about it in 7 years.
- Yeah, Algebra II Honors/Chemistry/Seminary sucks, but you have to get through it. There’s no way around it. Throwing tantrums will not help things.
- You might not want to go to college now, but Future Kat might. Don’t betray her by getting a D in Chemistry. (Well, you did anyway, but luckily you got a scholarship in spite of that.)
- Don’t stop doing what you love. Make time for it. Don’t be ashamed of your talents,
even ifespecially if they are different than others’.
- Be nice to EVERYONE. You’ll be glad you did.
- Be forward and honest with others.
- Sometimes the smallest lies are the biggest ones.
- Don’t drink energy drinks. Gross.
- There are consequences to dyeing your hair eight different colors in one year.
- WEAR SUNSCREEN, DAMMIT.
- Mom and Dad are weird, and they’re just going to get weirder. Learn to live with it, and eventually you’ll enjoy it.
- Family is who is left when everyone else has left.
- Talk all the smack you want, but don’t say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face, and fully expect what you say to travel around the school at least twice.
- You will lose friends, and it will hurt. Don’t waste time trying to win them back, you will learn from it and make better friends because of it.
- Quit stressing over who to put in your Top 8…or 12/16/20. Also, don’t take any emo mirror-pictures with your hair covering one eye, you can’t pull it off. Actually…just stay away from MySpace altogether.
- Be wise about who you give second chances to. Do not give thirds, or fourths, or fifths.
- At the same time: Forgive. Know the difference between forgiving and forgetting.
- Go after what you want, or else someone else could take it from you.
- It’s okay to do dumb stuff every now and then, even if you get caught. Live a little.
- Don’t dwell on your mistakes.
- You can’t do everything you want, when you want. You just can’t. That doesn’t change after you become an adult, either. Sorry.
- Be Yourself. You’re the only one who can!
So I threw out my freshman, sophomore, and junior year yearbooks, knowing that the above list is what I really needed to get out of high school and there was no Herff Jones publication that would replace that.
But I kept my senior year yearbook, because it has THIS awesome picture of me on swim team: