People say who you are in high school is who you are for the rest of your life. The jocks, the nerds and the girls every guy wanted to date — however your school defined those groups is something you carry with you as you move through each life phase. And... isn't that terrifying? On the eve of my 10-year high school reunion, I am hoping to find out that I am not entirely that same person and instead have taken the past 10 years and grown.
I imagine every 17-year-old has some fear and hesitation around who she is. I know I did.
When I asked my younger brother to shed some light on what I was like in high school (he was a freshman when I was a senior), he said, "You were the first person to jump down someone's throat, but if you cared about them, you were also the first person to have their back — and not much has changed."
When I asked my dad the same question, he said that I was fiercely loyal to my friends, cared deeply about how I did in school and had little tolerance for mediocrity — also none of which has changed. In reality, these traits are not terrifying to have, but they were assets I wasn't aware were important at the time. It was critically important to just be viewed as popular.
My 17-year-old self was hypersensitive to how I was viewed. I was never good enough compared to my peers or compared to where I perceived my peers to be. I wanted to be better at sports, I wanted more guys to ask me out, I wanted my parents to be cooler, I wanted to have a better wardrobe... the list could go on. I wanted all of these things instead of what I actually had — which are all of the traits I've carried with me that have led me to my current life. Ten years after high school, I have a degree in history from the University of Maryland, work at Fortune 500 company, recently got married (and acquired a stepson) and live in New York City. I think my 17-year-old self would be pretty stoked to see all of this.
What I realize now is that high school is a race to just be like everyone else, to fit in and not stand out. I think I'll be happy to see many of my peers who made that phase of my life so rich and fun. I'm curious to see how I will be perceived. Will I revert back to being 17 among this group, or will I be more secure with who I am? Because for me, after 10 years, I am hoping to be viewed as someone who stands out.
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