I have recurring nightmares in which I’m in high school and realize that I have some huge project due for which I have nothing done. It’s ridiculously stressful, and it’s almost sad how relieved I am when I wake up.
I partially chalk it up to being too obsessed with school my whole life. But then I realized that I almost NEVER dream about any other time in school -- elementary school, college, grad school. It’s almost always high school. What is it about high school that made it linger in my subconscious almost ten years after graduating? (I know I’m not alone in this either -- my mom told me she still has dreams about not being able to find her locker.)
When I was actually in high school, one of my church youth group leaders commented that he realized how easy he had it in high school. I remember thinking at the time that being in high school was hard. Now that I’m an adult, I understand what he meant. You really don’t have that much responsibility in high school. Your parents are still acting as your safety net, and all you really have to do is do your homework and stay out of trouble. Even knowing that, though, I have almost no desire to go back to that time of life. And the reason for that is the same reason why, I think, I still dream about it: High school is just intense in a way that no other period of schooling, or life in general, is.
First of all, let’s talk about that schoolwork. No, it’s not nearly as intense as college or graduate work. But remember, you have way less control over what subjects and classes you want to take. You also have almost no schedule flexibility. You have to go to school and be there for at least 7 hours. You don’t have a random hour between classes where you can do whatever you want. And after school, you have your clubs, sports, work, church activities, and maybe even outside tutoring. And then after that, you still have to do your load of homework, almost all of which is due the very next day. I feel so much for my students who finish their tutoring session at 9:00pm and still have to finish their math homework once they get home. And there’s pressure to do well enough to go to college and figure out the future, and you think you have to figure it all out RIGHT NOW.
Next, let’s talk about hormones. There’s just too many of them happening, period. Not to mention that you’re still getting used to all of the growing and changing. And oh, the angst. And the crushes. And the listening to songs that feel like they were written just for you. You don’t know yourself very well yet (or you haven’t made your peace with the parts you do know) and so you look to your friends and peers to see how you’re doing, self-actualization-wise. You see these people every day, so you have to be extra careful to not wear the same thing in the same week. (Once you get to college, you only have classes with the same people every other day, so they’ll never know the difference). And now there’s an entire realm of social media to which everyone has 24/7 access, so you have to be “on” ALL THE TIME and get those likes. (I can’t tell you how grateful I am that there were no smart phones and only the start of social media when I was in high school.)
You’re sort of adultish, but with no true understanding or perspective on life. You feel all the feelings. You think that it’s imperative to get every yearbook and get it filled with heartfelt messages from all of your friends and hopefully your crush. These are weird times, man.
So hug a high school student; they need it. And revel in the relief you feel when you wake up and remember you’re not in high school anymore.