A Chapter Closed: Reflecting on High School

Over the weekend I finally managed to graduate high school!

This whole thing was actually a really strange experience. High school felt like it flew by and dragged all at the same time.

To be honest, I’m having a seriously hard time reflecting on everything I had experienced in high school. There were some decisions I made that I wasn’t particularly proud of, like dropping certain activities and sports when my health declined.

What really struck me was how much humiliation I felt having graduated.

For some context, I’ve always had fickle health, but all of a sudden, it tanked freshman year of high school. Literally out of nowhere. My legs began deteriorating at a rate I had never seen. My GI track fried (almost literally). My lungs started hating me. I started having blood sugar drops and fainting. It was like my body self-destructed in the span of a week. I was literally thrown into the deep end of chronic illness.

As a result, my grades suffered. Granted, I still graduated with honours and everything, and I did the best I could in the moment, but being shoved into a realm of chronic illness was very difficult for me. Don’t even get me started on how it impacted the people in my life.

I was one of the “smart people” in my school. I was known for my intelligence and my academic rigor, and people respected me. What came with that territory, however, was I was initially surrounded with a bunch of other “smart people” like me. When I got sick and my grades tanked, a lot of my “smart people” friends abandoned me in lieu of more “academic” friends. That really hurt. Sure, I was sick, but it didn’t change who I was.

“It didn’t change who I was.”

It brought up a bunch of humiliating feelings, especially when I saw my once-friends graduate with “Highest Honours”. I’m happy for them; they’ve worked so hard, but I guess they inadvertently taught me that no matter how hard you work, you could be better. And that was pretty hard for me to grasp, because I had worked so hard.

I don’t think I’m exactly making sense, but to put it in other words, it felt like no matter how hard I worked, everyone would see me as the “smart person that didn’t make it” instead of the “equally smart-as-before person that has boundaries “. It’s almost like I lost “smartness” points because I got sick.

I think that’s partially a societal thing. We only recognize the hard work for the people who rose above all expectations, and almost invalidate the hard work that other people strive for to do the things normal people take for granted. We don’t congratulate the person who worked their butt off and managed to get a passing grade; we commend the person who worked hard (but not necessarily their butt off) and got an A. In other words, instead of looking at the work it took the get to a goal, we look for the end result.

I guess that’s what you get from living in a super goal-oriented society.

I thought I had overcome all that shame and humiliation, but when I sat in my chair, listening to my teachers read names off, I realize that I hadn’t.

It’s hard to feel proud of yourself when so few people are proud of you.

So I guess it was a humbling experience in a way; it reminded me that I still have ways to go before I can comfortably love myself.

As for personal growth, I feel like I am a very different person than I was as a freshman. I was a fairly awkward, bubbly freshman desperate of the validation of others. I was constantly nauseous, but didn’t quite know why (a precursor to the hell that was to follow). I was very insecure, and wanted to disappear in the background, but for whatever reason, stood out for all the wrong reasons.

Now I’m way more confident. I can say no. I can advocate for myself and my well being. I’ve learned that I don’t need a ton of friends to feel validated; my best friends and I are enough.

I’m definitely not don’t growing, but I am definitely proud of who I’m becoming.

And now the college process begins!

High school was great, but I hear college is a hell of a lot better!

“Take encouragement from how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go.”

-Debra Searle

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