In Las Vegas, where you live determines where you go to school.
The high school I was zoned for didn’t have a good academic reputation, so my parents sent me to the district’s highest-rated school, a magnet school halfway across town.
I hated high school. I hated the culture and I hated that we lacked the “fun” things like football games that other schools had. I also hated being in classes with a bunch of “nerdy gamers” and being away from my neighborhood friends.
But as much as I hated the place, I don’t regret going there. During my time, I learned valuable lessons.
1. There’s always someone better than you.
When I entered high school, I was shocked to discover other people were also good writers like me. In fact, I learned my fellow first-year students were better than me academically, which wasn’t surprising considering our school had the brightest kids in the district.
It was a rude awakening because what I thought made me unique made me like everyone else. Seeing others with the same talents taught me there’s always someone better than you. Not everyone is perfect, and if we were all the same amount of good at everything, we wouldn’t improve.
2. The people who don’t believe in you are as important as the ones who do.
I discovered this my senior year working for the school newspaper. The advisor constantly criticized me, and I went home many days crying hysterically and doubting myself.
But I learned to motivate myself using her doubts. When she told me I couldn’t, I pushed myself to show that I could. The experience helped me appreciate those who did believe in me. I also learned not to quit when things got difficult and I realized the importance of focusing on my strengths and not my weaknesses.
3. Embrace the weirdness in yourself and others.
When I entered high school, I was upset to be robbed of a “traditional” high school experience. We didn’t have any sports or a music program. The year’s biggest social event was not senior prom, but a board game marathon.
But eventually, I embraced my school’s eccentric culture. While at first I was embarrassed by our after-school activities, I realized I was lucky to be in an environment that didn’t pressure us to change. Since I was surrounded by quirky people, I also got to try new things I would have never considered.
4. You won’t always achieve your goals.
This isn’t a new lesson—philosophers, poets and other notable people have failed countless times before they eventually succeeded. But I’m not one to deal with failure easily, and I’m glad I experienced it first in high school, rather than receiving rude awakenings in college and my professional life.
Through my many (many, many, many…) failures, I learned not to be such a perfectionist. I learned not to beat myself up so much when I fell short of my goals. I learned to pick myself up and try new approaches until I got to where I wanted to be.
5. What happens to you in high school doesn’t define your life or you as a person.
Thanks to movies, TV shows and books, high school students think those years determine who they will be for the rest of their lives. But the truth is, you barely scratch the surface of what your life will be.
So, experience new things. Make friends from other schools. Learn the value of a dollar and get a part-time job. Take up an interesting hobby. Stop doing things you don’t like. Take your work seriously, but don’t take it too seriously.
And don’t forget to have fun.