Monday, June 23, was my last day as an underclassman. It also marked the end of the first year of my assimilation into the Lexington High School community, a journey that has been tumultuous and emotionally draining at times, but eye-opening and sometimes even enjoyable as well.
This past year has taught me a plethora of skills, most of them social in nature rather than academic. I have battled my way through countless bouts of loneliness, awkward situations and my fair share of sleepless nights as a result of social anxiety and academic pressures, and at the end of it all, I have emerged as a stronger person.
Over the course of the year, I have learned several lessons that have made my transition a bit easier, and have brought me to some of the greatest individuals I have ever met. There is hardly anything that anybody can do or say to ease the sense of rage that you likely feel towards the injustice of your situation, but hopefully, this advice will allow you to be more willing to embrace your move as an adventure, rather than a consequence.
1. Be nice to everyone. Don't make too many assumptions about people, because the beginning of the year is not the time to be making enemies. Remember that you're going to be with these people for at least another school year, and you never know who's going to be important in a few months. On the first day of school, it will be terrifying, because rarely before in your life have you ever been in a situation where you literally don't know anyone. Make lots of friends. Ask anyone and everyone if you can eat lunch with them. People will be curious about who you are; introduce yourself, smile a lot and just act naturally. Sooner or later, you will find your people. (Or they'll find you.)
2. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Sign up for as many clubs are you're interested in. Try something completely new, because you never know what you'll find a passion for. If you're up for it, start a new club. Through extracurriculars, you will make a boatload of friends (and then some) and you might even find something you will fall in love with. This is the time to experiment. Nobody knows you, so you are completely free to reinvent yourself. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?
3. Ask for help. People are aware of the fact that you're new. And if they're not, then this is the optimal time to introduce yourself and make new friends. If you don't know how to figure out your insanely complex block schedule, ask a homeroom buddy, ask a teacher or even ask a random stranger during passing time in the hallway. Chances are, anyone will be willing to help.
4. Be confident in yourself, and never be ashamed of where you're from. Even if it's somewhere that people aren't going to respect, like, say, Iowa... For the first few weeks, your previous place of residence will be how you are identified (e.g. "girl from Iowa"). If you're like me, you will not shut up about where you're from, and people will get tired of you. You will either be endlessly mocked or endlessly praised about your home state; either way, anticipate lots of questions and state-related puns. If you're from Iowa, they'll be especially corny.
5. Expect homesickness (often). It will be tempting to reminisce. There will be songs and phrases that reminds you of inside jokes and the happiest days of your life; you will feel like your heart has been shattered and then stomped all over by this new place that you are forced to call home, and it will be the loneliest (and probably most vengeful) feeling that you have ever experienced thus far. The process of letting go will be slow and painful, but sooner or later, you'll stop casually dropping the name of your home state into every single conversation, and your wardrobe will gradually shift from obnoxious state pride to normal-people clothes.
6. Stay in touch with old friends. Don't burn any bridges, because you never know who you're going to see again in the future. Being in contact with friends through email and social media will pull you through those really tough days when you feel like you have nobody else in the world. They might not understand what you're going through, but they will be there to listen to your rants (maybe even ranting with you), and they are the ones who will put together the pieces after you break down crying on your keyboard.
7. Be optimistic and chase every opportunity. One day, you will sit alone on the bus and you will finally realize that you have moved halfway across the country with little chance of ever going back to wherever you moved from. In that moment, you will hate everyone for being so happy about "all the new doors that have been opened" because you'll still be thinking about the ones that have been slammed shut. Keep your head up; moving to a new place is just an obstacle that should do nothing to hinder your potential. It will be difficult to recreate all of the opportunities that you had built for yourself back home because here, you are starting from almost nothing. Whenever you see a chance, do everything in your power to take it, no matter how futile it seems.
8. Don't insult your new place of residence. When people ask how you like your new town, never answer "I hate it" (or any variation); your answer will be taken as a personal insult.
9. Accept the injustices. As a newbie, life will be incredibly unfair. You don't know anybody, so you have will have zero credibility or popularity with your peers. Depending on your situation, you might be stuck in a class that A) consists of students of a different grade than you, B) isn't even a class that you wanted (i.e. study hall) or C) is a repeat of a class that you've already taken at your old school. All of these scenarios suck, but you have little say in the matter, so don't argue with your counselor, dean or -- God forbid -- the principal, because your situation will only get worse.
10. When all else fails, trust school. Even if none of your classmates acknowledge the effort that you have put in to assimilate by offering to be your friend, if you put in enough effort towards classwork, at least your teachers will appreciate you. Applying yourself to academics will not only take your mind off of social stresses, but will boost your grades, thus setting you up for a successful future, regardless of how you feel about your current situation.