As I’ve been wrapping up my time at Xavier (yes, again with the reflection pieces), I wanted to think about what “wisdom” I have acquired here through my many, many, many mistakes. Most of it, you’ve probably heard of before. We all know it’s important to try and experiment (even if that means undergoing some form of failure), to listen to those who are more experienced (even if, as will happen now, their experiences may not be directly relevant to yours), and to seek out help whenever possible. Still, I decided, for the sake of closure, to let you guys know my thoughts and feelings using a characteristically Buzfeed-esque numbering scheme (okay, I apologize in advance for it maybe being half-clickbaity).
You may not fit the Xavier mold… and that’s okay: I definitely don’t think I fit the stereotype of a Xavier student who likes football and sport-related endeavors (I’m proud to have written an editorial criticizing the institution of football’s impact on public health… it’s what has made me super popular), but I still have managed to carve out a niche for myself (yes, including with friends who enjoy football, strange as it sounds to me). Any environment is what you make of it; Xavier is large enough that you can find people with a variety of interests, views, and backgrounds. You might have come here kicking and screaming, thinking you would never fit in, or you might have come here without a second thought, but either way, Xavier gives you the opportunities needed to form an intimate friend group. Don’t be pessimistic and all will be well.
Teachers are actual people too: Gasp! I know this one is a shocker, but apparently teachers are real people who can talk about things that, well, aren’t related to school. Some of my best relationships with teachers have been formed through interactions not in the 8:15 – 2:35 window (more so post-2:35 because waking up to get to school early is just not it, as the Kestrel team knows best about me). My most memorable times here have been discussing politics with Mr. Flowers and Mr. Popielaski, discussing endosymbiosis with Mrs. Charpentier (nerd status +infinity HP), and simply talking about my problems with Mr. St. George. That’s not to say you will have a great relationship with all of your teachers. You will inevitably have teachers you don’t like because of your own faults and theirs, and it’s okay to not want to form a relationship with them. Some personality clashes are just too big to overcome, and struggling to overcome them can be a waste of effort for both parties. Still, key to my Xavier experience has been finding mentors in teachers and older students to simply become a better person, which brings me to my next point.
High School isn’t a rat race, but you cannot stay still: Okay, I get that this sounds a little hypocritical coming from someone who is currently drowning in AP coursework (why did I take so many AP courses?). Sometimes in the struggle for a good GPA, you can lose sight of what’s important: developing your interests and finding your passions (notice I didn’t mention getting into x school?). You will inevitably have, as in every stage of your life, boring obstacles designed just to discourage you, whether they come in the form of a standardized test or an unpredictable college admissions process that sometimes seems like a zero-sum game. You should (and have to!) find ways of satisfying these requirements (that’s why it’s important to finding long-lasting interests that let you relax), and so you shouldn’t be complacent with just floating by the bare minimum. Don’t feel though that this compromise leaves no room for relaxation (sometimes you need to watch all of Survivor Micronesia for your mental health, as well as eat an entire chocolate bar…oops). High school is not just a stepping stone, something my fellow Type-A personalities can attest to having to overcome.
Don’t expect to have everything figured out: Okay, I get that this sort of relates to the previous piece of advice but I formed a new paragraph. Sue me. You may have a four-year plan of how you expect your time at high school to turn out, and that might be great and all in that it’s nice to have a rough structure of your plans, but you’re [insert x years old]; you’re a teenager (or if not, hello mom, this doesn’t apply to you) who has simply not had exposure to that much of the “real” world beyond your own bubble. People constantly undergo personal development and career switches (even beyond middle age), so you shouldn’t feel held back by others’ expectations (or more often, your own). It’s okay, albeit stressful, to change, but that’s just part of being human.
Where you go doesn’t define you: Take a deep breath. Feel better? If not, chocolate exists for a reason. Anyways, this is something that many people seem to lose sight of under the rat-race mentality I talked about before. Whether you go to an Ivy League institution (need I mention that the entire naming refers to a sports, not academic, league? ugh) or a perfectly respectable and admirable school like UCONN, you can be happy. Happiness, more so than anything else, is about how you deal with the cards you’re dealt with. If you work your best and take advantage of all the opportunities you receive at whatever school you choose, you can (and will!) be successful.
To the very small minority of people who actually read that (I wouldn’t have if I were in your shoes), I hope you enjoyed it and got something out of it. If not, reading it couldn’t possibly have been that much of a waste of time. After all, you know you would have been doing something unproductive with your time, wouldn’t you?