High school offers young people more freedom and opportunities than they may ever have again. There are social, emotional and academic challenges which help to transform the adolescent into an adult. Strengths and weaknesses are defined and, for many people, relationships will develop which will last a lifetime.
Although it can be a frightening, stressful time with peer and academic pressure, discipline and deadlines, those few short years will have a profound effect on the rest of a person’s life. To paraphrase Dickens, it can be the best of times, or the worst of times, but one thing is certain: few times in a person’s life will be as memorable or as important.
Never again will you mix with such a large group of similar-minded people. High school is a shared world, with teenagers from all backgrounds and levels of ability wrestling with the same physical and hormonal changes, not to mention the stresses of school work. Friends are critically important at such a time, and although there will be many who enjoy different sports, or music, or hobbies, there will be fellow students who can share your interests and your most intimate secrets.
High school is often a time for first love. It’s one of the side-effects of those physical and hormonal changes, when you realise for the first time that some relationships can be more than friendships. Parents and teachers often underestimate the importance of young love, seeing it as transient or as a stepping stone to something deeper, but it matters a great deal. There is alarming research connecting the breakdown of close relationships to teen suicide, and although young love is rarely easy, few people will ever forget the first person they kissed.
Modern schools often get a bad rap for failing to meet the academic needs of young people, and it is certainly true that coursework doesn’t suit everyone equally. But most schools do offer a wide range of learning experiences, giving young people a chance to develop an interest in music, drama or cooking, for example. The education which takes place in high school is no longer confined to mainstream academic subjects, and the young person who may struggle with exams and assignments still has a chance to discover what they like and what they are good at.
As teenagers prepare to enter the adult world, the experience of high school presents them with options. It’s a lovely thing to be able to have choices and to still have dreams of what the world might offer. Although at times it seems as though high school is corrupting and stereotyping young people so that they “do what they’re told”, in truth, there is incredible freedom to become who you want to be. Once high school is nothing more than a memory, the world of work takes over, and that is a lot more corrupting than high school could ever be.
Then, of course, there is financial freedom. Young people may never seem to have enough money for the latest fashion, concert ticket or game, but they have few bills. Part-time work is still an enjoyable diversion and the wages can pay for many pleasures. When the bills of adulthood start rolling in, those carefree high school days suddenly seem like a time you’d like back.
For all of these reasons, and no doubt many more, high school can definitely be the best time of your life.