My sister IMed me today to tell me that my 15-year-old niece didn’t make the Yearbook staff. As her mother, my sister feels terrible that her child is hurting. As the aunt and former Yearbook editor (for the same high school) I’m annoyed that her talent got overlooked. But part of me thinks this has to be chalked up as part of the suckness of being a teenager.
I remember being a preteen and having all these grand notions about what high school would be like. I thought for sure I’d be popular, brilliant and outgoing—and of course have a boyfriend. I seem to recall even talking with friends, trying to predict what age we’d lose our virginity.
Flash forward to the actual 4-year era and I was a skinny, gawky, shy-ish but sarcastic girl who barely had a boyfriend for four months and was nowhere close to losing her virginity. My best friend and I tried out for cheerleading together when we were 15. She made it, I didn't. I was never going to be the girl I pictured years before.
In the finite realm of high school, every bit of rejection, criticism, insecurity is amplified. It all feels so huge.
I wish there was a way to make kids really understand how little high school matters. It gets built up as being "the best years of your life," but really, those are some of the hardest years. Sure, there are great memories. And lots of firsts. But there's awkwardness in your body. Uncertainty with your persona. Constant questioning. Continual competition. And in the grand scheme, I think it can be meaningless.
Or maybe it means a lot—maybe all the hardship is what chips away at you and helps sculpt you into the person you're meant to be. Maybe the thing to tell teens is that even their friends who seem to have everything are experiencing pain. Nobody gets to have it exactly the way they want it. And somewhere, someone is probably envying the way you did something or the way your life is going.
I wish I could flash forward into my niece's future and show her what an amazing, successful, happy individual she's going to be. Show her that everything is going to be okay. That today—and even this year—is just a tiny blip.
Every day is a chance for the blip to go in a new direction.