The following open letter from a teenager is by Naomi DeLaet, a freshmen at Plainwell High School in Michigan.
Please stop telling us that high school is going to be the best four years of our lives.
Most of us are lucky to not cry three or four times a week, or to not break down completely because of stress. And that’s the best case scenario.
We do understand why the academic parts are so hard. We know we need that to prepare ourselves for college. We also know we need to get jobs, and to do a sport (or maybe two or three), because sports are important and Mom really likes seeing us in that jersey. We need to socialize with our families. And besides that, if we don’t pass our classes then shame will fall on the entire family, and…
Suddenly there’s not enough time in the year to do it all, much less do it all every day, for four years.
World, it’s not exactly fair for you to claim we’re all lazy or moody or unsocial, or whatever else you like to dub us as. We really do try. We do our best. For most of us, our best is good enough, and we’re praised for it… and constantly used as a comparison bar for the rest of us. Diversity, appreciated or not, exists in everything, and high schoolers are no exception. Some of us, both in and out of the ring, just have better skills, better luck, or better help. And that’s not our fault. Sometimes, the ring is to blame.
The ‘ring’, being, of course, not some Lord of the Rings reference, but an analogy to a fighting ring.
Most of us agree education is important, and that we’re lucky to live in a first-world country where we have a school. And that is true. We are extremely fortunate. But for many who go, school can be a little on the Please Get Me Out Of Here side of the spectrum. And it’s not because of the curriculum.
In a school environment, we not only have to worry about passing our classes and the academic aspects; we also worry about the social part. This means understanding the etiquette of making friends, keeping them, and following all the social cues that didn’t come listed in the Student Handbook. These rules are hard to follow, and not everyone feels bound to uphold them. High school sometimes feels like a piranha tank that’s been mistaken for a nice, unassuming goldfish bowl.
After looking at this load balanced precariously on our backs, then yes, it’s quite easy to see why so many of us get cranky.
So we’re asking for a bit of elbow room. Just another inch or two. We don’t need later curfews or bigger allowances, although those would be nice. And we aren’t asking for more college advice, either. We’ve got enough information spinning through our heads already.
What we need is simple: time, patience, and forgiveness.
It’s not always easy to like us, but giving us time doesn’t have to be intimate. It can be as small as going for a fifteen minute run, or explaining a homework problem, or just going past the standard ‘How was your day?’ question after school. We have something to say, if you’re willing to listen. We also ask you to be patient with us because it’s hard to be a teenager, and we’re not going to learn anything very quickly, whatever you’re trying to teach us. And we’re probably not going to do much of anything right the first time, either, so we need forgiveness. We’re going to mess up. Grades, social situations, time management; anything and everything. It’s unavoidable. It is impossible to go through high school and have time to do everything perfectly. That doesn’t happen for anyone. (Excluding, of course, teen-fiction book characters, Disney princesses, and aliens.)
So please, please just be understanding.
You were here not so long ago. You remember.
And if you don’t, then please try a little harder. And not just to remember your high school days, but to help us out. It’s a two-way street.
We’ll try harder, too.
Thanks for keeping us,