12 out of 12: An Ending Note.

I graduated?

Even though it’s been nearly a month, I still pinch myself as I speak these words out loud.  After twelve years of formal education (not including kindergarten), I, among with the 636 students of the Sir Winston Churchill High School graduating class of 2017, walked across the stage and received my diploma, before thousands of faces, familiar and unfamiliar. Graduation day and night was phenomenal, and an extremely special experience that I won’t soon forget.

But now it’s over- not only grad, but high school.  The realization that I will be leaving my second home, the high school with so many of my close friends and teachers, is dawning on me. If I had to use one word to describe how it feels to be leaving behind my many years of schooling that have become dear to me, it would be “bittersweet.”  Behind me I am leaving adventures that have shaped me, and yet before me I know that many more await.

High school especially has presented to me some of the highest highs and lowest lows of life so far- the best of times and the worst. It’s been one heck of a ride, that’s for sure, but as I reflect back upon my experience, there is hardly a thing I would have done differently. Mistakes were made, and plenty of them. But had I done a single thing otherwise, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

However, just because I personally would not have had anything any other way, it doesn’t mean that I can’t pass on what I’ve learned from my shortcomings to the world- perhaps someone out there will learn from where I went wrong, avoid making the same mistakes!

Here are some pieces of advice that I think will take your life, no matter what stage you are at, to the next level. Sure, these lessons were learned in a school environment, but in a way, a high school is like a mini society, and  these words of wisdom can be applied anywhere and everywhere. I decided to divide the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained into 12 main thoughts, to commemorate my 12 years of education. (hence the title of this blog) Enjoy!

LOVE yourself, BELIEVE in yourself, and be TRUE to yourself.

Trust me when I say this- you will be the happiest when you do things for you, pursue what fulfills you, and make your own decisions. Sure, others may all be good at science, but if you’re good at english, that’s equally as amazing. Be confident in who you are and who you want to be, and be fearless of the opinions of those around you. As the famous saying goes, those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.

There are many choices to make in life- If you’re trying to decide between one option or another, simply think about what makes you happy and excited. Sure, have some consideration of the outcome of your choice, but oftentimes individuals thrive when they choose to do what puts a smile on their faces.

If you want it, you’re gonna have to work for it…

I noticed something in high school… the harder I worked for something, be it a mark, an award, or anything that I desired to achieve, the more I received what I set out for. Hard work does pay off– often it’s extremely difficult to stop procrastinating and just do the work, but once you overcome the difficult first step of getting started, it becomes easier. Tip: leave your phone and all access to social media on a different floor of the house!

 

Spend time with people who build you up, and avoid the ones who bring you down

In junior high at right about till the end of high school, I felt the need to be nice to everyone, even the people who treated me awfully, but as the years progressed, I learned to stand up for myself and be real with myself- and it feels so much better than lying to myself and telling myself that I’m not bothered when people are mean to me. There will be people who deliberately try to bring negativity into your life, but all you have to do is not let them- find others who truly appreciate you and like you for who you are, and invest in relationships with them. You’ll find that as you pursue the relationships which add meaning into your life, the toxic ones which usher in negativity will fade away.

 

Try new things..in moderation.

In Grade 10, I joined every. single. club and extracurricular activity that sparked a mild interest in me… Sure, it was a great way to meet people and have fun, but soon I was so stressed and overwhelmed, and I seemed to have lost my purpose and forgotten my priorities. It’s great to join new things, but in moderation-so you can balance school, chores, and spending quality time with friends and family. In Grades 11 and 12, I focused not on the quantity of activities I did outside of school, but on how the activity enriched me. For example, instead of doing a billion business clubs, I focused on advancing in a single one to a leadership position that provided enrichment for me.

If you’re trying to participate in a bunch of activities for the resume/university application, keep in mind that they don’t look for mere quantity- everyone can put down a billion different “commitments”. Instead, try to develop strong relationships with individuals who will be able to reinforce what you proclaim about yourself, and establish meaningful and important roles in your engagements.

Karma comes back around, so treat others the way you’d want to be treated.

Be a good person- it’s as simple as that.  Throughout the years of my schooling, I watched people who did bad things or were mean to others receive bad karma. Believe in it or not, but somehow being kind always seems to pay off. Besides, why not? The world could always use a little more kindness.  Also, being honest is a must- if you do something like cheating or lying, be warned that it’ll come back to bite you. A possible valedictorian candidate at my school had made it to the final round, when it was revealed that he had cheated on his physics test in grade 11, and then after that there was no more valedictorian prospects for him.

Speak up for yourself, and talk about things, even when you really don’t want to.

If other people are pushing jokes a bit too far, or making fun of you a bit too much so that it hurts and bothers you, don’t just sit there… politely defend yourself.  There’s nothing worse than being the punching bag of a group of people, even if they seem like your friends.  Also, if something happened and it’s really bothering you, talk to someone about it, no matter how small it seems to be.   This is a lesson I learned too late in my opinion, because it would have came in handy on many other occasions. It’s always hard to open up to people, but the feeling of peace that many of us experience after doing so makes it more than worth it.

 

Take (calculated) risks!

Let’s just say that if I hadn’t taken risks in high school, I would be completely, utterly bored with my life. Risks are, well, risky, that’s for sure. But imagine yourself as an 80-year-old. Would you rather have lived a life of regret, or a life where you’re happy with everything you’ve accomplished? Often times, when risks result in failure, it stings, but it also teaches us lessons. Mistakes are, in the end, stepping stones which shape and push us to become who we want to be. I can’t imagine how unhappy I would be right now if I hadn’t taken risks. Want to try debate but you’re afraid? Go for it. Want to try out for a sports team but you’re afraid you won’t make it? Go for it. However, don’t go down the wrong pathway and take ‘risks’ that will hurt you... Take risks that will, no matter what, benefit you in some way, shape or form.

 

Ask lots and lots of questions- if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

My mom told me this rule of thumb when I was young, and it has saved me countless incidents. Whether it be asking the bus driver when the right stop was, asking for extensions, asking for clarifications about schoolwork, asking people for favours, or even asking people to hang out, questions truly pay off.  You’d be surprised how much the answer is something you want to hear! Also, here’s a tip: when asking questions, think carefully- successful people ask the right questions!

 

Enjoy yourself.

Sometimes, we as students get so caught up in the workload of high school and life that we forget that our years of formal education are some of the most special in our lives.  Perhaps it seems like you have mountains of work that you don’t even want to touch, but take a step back, and realize that right now you are basically living a life free of the worser type of stress. Stressing about taxes, bills, mortgages, who’s gonna put three meals a day on your family’s plates.. as first-world students, we live a very privileged and fortunate lifestyle. So enjoy it! Make sure you spend time with your friends and family, sit back and appreciate everything you have once in a while, and acknowledge that those seemingly boring classes only happen when they happen! Already, some of my classroom memories are beginning to feel nostalgic…

 

Develop meaningful relationships (with peers AND teachers).

 

Relationships are like bank accounts- you get out what you put in.  A special thing about going to school with the same people for years is that you have numerous opportunities to cultivate friendships, maybe even lifelong friendships, with them. It requires an effort, of course- nothing worth having comes easy. But if you attempt to get to know others and establish genuine connections, you’ll find that it’s quite rewarding.  Although I love spending time with myself, a wonderful part of life is bonding and creating memories with other human beings.  Your teachers might seem foreign at first, but most are pretty friendly, and it always makes a teacher’s day when a student makes an effort to talk to them. (also, if you end up needing a reference letter someday, the teachers you take the time to form connections with will be more than willing.)

 

Go on school trips, and trips in general…

School trips (and I mean the week-long trips, not field trips) moved my high school experience up a notch. Oftentimes, specific clubs/courses will offer the opportunity for you to travel with a select group of students inside or even outside of the country. These trips are truly special, but you won’t know how life-changing they are till you try! Whether it be a model UN trip, Sports trip, debate trip, business trip, or exchange program, I highly recommend jumping at the opportunity to travel with your peers.

 

Don’t stress too much about the future.

I admit that I myself am still struggling with this one- the question of who I want to be, where I see myself in 20 years, what I want to do with my life… it’s always at the back of my mind.  However, if you’re like me, remember that we have to take a step back and realize that we have our entire lives ahead of us, and everything usually works out in the end. Sometimes, the stress of what our future looks like becomes so strong that it overrides our power to live in the present. Don’t become so caught up in what might happen later on that you forget to enjoy what’s happening now!

Well, there it is- my mini reflection on the first chapter of life. 12 extra lessons that weren’t taught in any school curriculum, but ones that I’ll continue to be mindful of as life goes on.

Best wishes to anyone who may have stumbled across this post!

-Signing off one last time as a Senior,

Danielle

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