As my high school experience is drawing to a close, I feel like I should reflect on my four years, and make sure that the next generation of high schoolers will know how to make the most out of their years in high school.
Today, a student in my school committed suicide. It’s the third suicide this year and more than the tenth over the last six years at my school alone. I live in an extremely high-achieving, competitive area, where schools, parents and the students themselves push students to their very limits.
To me, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way high schoolers here are living their lives. There is this notion that while in high school, a student needs to devote her entire life to school, in order to enter the best college. But while I do think that education is the most important gift that anyone can receive, I don’t believe that school alone can provide that, and those who believe so will end up learning less. Most of my knowledge about the world comes from my experiences outside of school, and my overall well-being is from my insistence to do what makes me happy.
So today, I’m going to talk about some of the experiences I’ve had during my years in high school that have shaped me into who I am today. I think these are just as important as studying!
1. Midnight movie watching and Denny’s. Some of my fondest memories come from what my friends and I call the “perfect night.” During said weekend night, we would start watching a movie at midnight, then take a drive to the closest Denny’s (it’s open 24/7) and talk for hours about anything that comes to mind. While this has nothing to do with school work, those nights helped me remember that it’s okay to enjoy life and take things slow. It was also a great time to rant about anything going on in our lives and give one another totally unqualified advice.
2. Day trips to San Francisco. I’m so grateful that I have had the chance to live so close to such a great city. I took every opportunity I got to go there. If you live near a big city, dedicate at least one day a month to take a train to the city and just go exploring. I’ve had days where my friend and I took a train to the city and had a challenge where we tried to spend as little money as possible throughout the whole day. We ended up walking all over the city and found an amazing, cheap deli and only spent 20 dollars total that whole day! I think part of being a teenager is opening your eyes to the world and by leaving your town and exploring a city with your friends, you’ll be exposed to so much more culture and gain valuable independence.
3. Hiking. Hiking is one of those things you will never regret doing. I try to go hiking as often as I can, and if you go with friends it will end up being one of the funnest things you will ever do. I have learned about so many interesting places and discovered so many cool things about my area that I would’ve never learned about if I hadn’t gone hiking. I have hiked through creeks, volcanoes, caves, and mountains while not leaving the Bay Area. It’s such a fun and healthful way to spend time with your friends and I promise you that your mind will clear and you’ll come home energized and ready to tackle your responsibilities.
4. After school lunch specials. Sometimes if I or one of my friends are having a bad day or just want a distraction, we would all congregate in a certain household, find random recipe and cook. We have created almost anything there is to create. And while those meals sometimes weren’t necessarily edible, we had so much fun collecting ingredients and making things together. After school hours are not only for homework!
5. Watching TV. This may sound silly, but I’ve actually learned so much from watching TV. Lost, Breaking Bad, Friends, That 70’s Show, The Office, The Wonder Years, Scrubs, Weeds and so many other shows have really contributed to my cultural knowledge. It’s one of my favorite things to do alone and with others and I do think that it’s really important for my well-being. Yes, watching excessive TV isn’t a good idea, but there is nothing wrong with watching a TV show after a long day or just vegging out sometimes. In fact, it may actually be beneficial.
This is just a short list of the things I love to do that don’t contribute to my school education directly, yet impact me in a major way. Don’t think that your life is only composed of the things you can write down in a college application or a resume, because it’s so much more. Each experience you have, whether it’s “educational” or not, will benefit you, even if it’s as small as just spending time with your family and friends. Don’t compromise your teenagerhood for the best GPA because you’ll end up missing the best parts in life. I have known too many peers who have ended their lives because they felt like they were trapped and I want to let you know that you are not trapped, and in fact, your world has just opened. You will be stressed in high school and you will have to work hard, but please take time to do the things you want to do.
This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.