Strictly Speaking: A Column


Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief

   I’ve been doing an unfortunate amount of reflection upon the last four years of my life lately, what with my graduation looming on the horizon. You’d think I’d have a lot to say, but the only substantive thing I’ve been able to come up with is that either American high school is unequivocally weird — or maybe, after a year stuck in my house, I’m just a smidge more out of touch with my generation than I usually am.

   For the record, the latter makes far, far more sense. As far as high school being weird is concerned, the pep rallies, fervid school spirit, and stereotypes are strangely ubiquitous, but normal and, honestly, expected. I, however, have never been to a house party, a football game. I’ve never even been to a school dance, which for an American high school student, is highly irregular.

   I’ve always felt off when it comes to my outright avoidance of “normal” high school-adjacent activities, like I was missing out on some integral part of the experience. I felt I wouldn’t grow up properly if I didn’t do everything I was “supposed” to do. The pandemic, of course, threw a wrench in any plan I might have had to follow through with all of the things I thought I had missed in high school, coming-of-age movie style. But, strangely, I’ve been feeling okay with all of it.

   I’ve missed a lot of what I figured were going to be milestones, crazy house parties and football games being just two examples. In my nonexistent exposure to the anatomy of high school, I guess I just assumed everyone was an academic, a cheerleader, a jock, or in a band — kind of like the movies. But the truth is, nothing ever fit into neat little squares and trying to force things into boxes didn’t help anyone, it just limited me.

   There’s a sort of prescribed way of doing things that accompanies so many stages of life, and I think we sometimes forget that none of us are ever going to perfectly match up to our expectations. Despite not participating in a lot of the activities I thought I would, I somehow managed to have a really valuable and often enjoyable time in high school. Looking back on it, I wish I had realized that instead of focusing on everything I wasn’t doing.

   Facing college, I’m feeling sort of like a scared eighth grader again, staring down a nebulous idea of what I think is happening next. I’m stressed about it, but I’m just trying to remind myself that the thing about the future is that it’s supposed to be uncertain. So this time, I’m trying to go into it without any expectations, because I think if I focus less on how things should be, I’ll be more able to enjoy how they are.

   If high school taught me anything valuable, it was that my experiences are never going to follow the script thrown at me, and my life isn’t going to play out perfectly linearly, and that’s okay! Because despite all of it, things have a  pretty uncanny way of working out in the end.