We All Leave High School, But We Never Totally Escape It


If college is the time to discover who you are amidst the noisy confusion of entering a more serious (in theory) decade of your life, high school is the time to flounder aimlessly as you realize you have no clearer idea of your identity than you do how to do your trigonometry homework.

High school was a strange time in our lives.

Well, it was a strange time for most of us — except for the well-adjusted ones amongst us (many of whom probably “peaked at eighteen, cool” as Hoodie Allen eloquently phrased it)

During this period of our lives, people were unnecessarily cruel to us.

We were unnecessarily cruel to others.

We were stupid.

We didn’t understand how or why we were changing, so we cultivated all our post-pubescent angst and threw fistfuls of it at those around us — our parents, our teachers, and even our friends.

We were unbearably young (even in our 20s, 15 and 16 and 17 feel like worlds away).

We were irresponsible but blameless because, for the most part, someone else was always there to pick up the pieces of whatever we managed to shatter that week.

In high school, we walked from class to class with heavy backpacks whose straps sliced into our shoulders and whose contents (necessary textbooks that we, honestly, only ever skimmed) weighed down our steps.

However, even after we graduated from high school, we carried and carry these backpacks around with us.

Somehow, at the end of four years, they’d grown much heavier than they were at the onset, and instead of the books and binders and sheaths of loose-leaf paper we needed for our 8am-3pm daily grind, we drag behind us the (sometimes near neurotic) insecurities that high school handed to us along with our diplomas.

People argue that our 20s and that our time in college will most significantly impact us as people — that they have the strongest influence in shaping how we see and interact with the world around us.

I would argue that high school affects us just as potently because it molds us during our most formative years. Between the ages of 14-18, give or take a year or two, we are the rawest we will ever be in our lives — the most malleable, most impressionable, and the most open (or averse, depending on who we are) to change. For the most part, we are just learning how to differentiate right from wrong, and we rely on our surrounding environment and peers to help us parse through fifty shades of grey.

This is why we are always so eager to see the friends we made in high school — despite how much time or distance we’ve spent away from them. This is why the boys and girls we loved then still have such a magnetic draw over us now — though we recognize that they are not the same people they were during our most vulnerable portion of youth. This is why we still feel awkward and maybe a little nervous around the people who bullied us because we remember how they made us feel like an insignificant speck of dust in the corner of their lockers.

This is why we care (if we do) about going to our high school reunions — to see which classmates have become overwhelmingly attractive and successful and which have become disappointingly unattractive and unsuccessful. This is why we care about these people at all, long after many of them should have become irrelevant to our lives.

Even years later, these people have a rich, unyielding ability to make us feel like we are 15 again…because they were there when we were 15, and they had a role in molding how we perceive ourselves and those around us.

They were there for the ugly throes of adolescence, but they were also there for the enchanting moments.

That is a difficult bond to destroy.