By Ella Trager
I walked into my little cousin’s glittery, pink-filled, princess decorated room, camouflaged in boy band posters, and she attacked me. Immediately bombarding me with the questions I had expected, she exclaimed, “How’s high school? Is it everything you’ve dreamed of? Tell me about the parties”. First of all, I have never “dreamed” of high school. Nightmares maybe, but never dreams. I didn’t tell her that though, because she still looked up to Cher Horowitz from Clueless, and Hannah Montana. I could see the bright sparkle in her tiny eyes as she imagined the 16 year old girl she would soon become, and I remembered that blazing, toxic sparkle that I once carried in my own eyes. I wanted to tell her that all the drama and fantasies weren’t real. So I’ll tell you now: if you are hiding under your covers awaiting your next day of high school or if you are sitting on your furry carpet with your door glued shut blasting music even after your parents asked you to turn it down, don’t fall into the trap. If you didn’t drop your notebooks and empty looseleaf papers in the wide, crowded hallways on your first day of high school, don’t worry high school’s not over. Yet. Oh, and if you didn’t make eye contact with the tall football player who happens to have crystal blue eyes that helped you pick up your papers, it’s ok. You still have time to fall in love with him. If you walk into lunch on the very first day with your apple juice box and some mysterious, gross looking meat sitting on a blue tray, don’t freak out. You won’t have to be like Cady Heron and sit alone in the bathroom stall. You know what, scratch that. You won’t have gross meat. You won’t have a juice box. And you definitely won’t have a blue tray.
Why is it that our 12 year old selves consumed these fantasies about the “magical” four years of high school that were soon to come? First, take some time and rewatch The Heathers, Clique and The Breakfast Club (I know, you probably thought that one was accurate), and make a list of how many scenes are true to things you have observed or experienced throughout your high school career. I guarantee you your paper will be blank. We’ve grown up idolizing these films, but they have quickly let us down. Do you really think that there are jocks, geeks, nerds, popular kids and “burnouts” in every high school? No. Do you really think that the captain of the boys basketball team will have silky brown hair and shining blue eyes every time, and also happen to be the most popular boy in school? Oh, and do you really think that there’s not a single girl out there, especially a blonde one, who doesn’t know rules of sports? No. So let me tell you right now, Troy Bolton, Gabriella Montez and Sharpay are setting you up for a false reality. We know, through experience, that not everyday in high school will be all rainbows and sunshine. That coming home to blasting music and gossiping with friends is not the truth. That at the end of each year, the perfect guy won’t always end up with the perfect girl, they won’t always both be straight A students and of course, they might not even be prom king and queen. (What’s with that cheesy stuff anyway?)
We are all much too often in our heads about being athletic enough, smart enough or popular enough. But where do our expectations come from? Regina George? Patrick Verona? If we don’t check the boxes of what these characters look like or what they accomplish, we feel defeated. Characters rarely seem worried about taking the SATs or the ACTs, joining clubs that look good on applications, failing a math test even when you stayed up all night, or even just fitting in with people that make you happy. I think we can all say we’ve stayed up until at least two in the morning complaining of exhaustion and worried about a letter that will “determine our future.”
We deserve a happy ending.
Not a happy ending where the guy gets the girl. Not a happy ending where the guy or girl gets into Harvard, and just so happens to be with all of his/her friends. Not a happy ending where the perfect couple gets prom king and queen. A real happy ending. A happy ending where making it through was enough to be content. Honestly, if everyone’s high school experience was made into a movie, we would probably only watch 25% of them. So don’t follow the script that you’ve been practicing since you were 12. Write your own story instead.