Adults have a habit of lying to teens about high school. I remember at the time suspecting that the adults who swore I would miss high school had probably peaked in high school themselves. As a horribly emotional and entirely untreated teenager with severe depression, nothing made ending it all sound appealing quite like the dire prediction that those were “the best years” of my life. “It doesn’t get better” has never been a great suicide prevention.
It’s also just not true. High school isn’t the high point of life for many people, especially weird ones. It’s a cut throat social hierarchy backed by racist and sexist administrators, and for many people it’s hell, the place you are forced to be while peers and authority figures abuse you. It’s a time of increased suicide risk. For many people, high school is the worst years of life.
I do feel nostalgia for the late 90s, for the fashion and music and memories with friends. I miss velvet pants and light up plastic rings and pewter skull jewelry, and I miss wearing them all together. I also miss cutting school to go to the mall where we’d smoke a joint behind a dumpster. I miss having time and money and a car I wasn’t afraid to drive (and got in constant accidents with).
I don’t miss lockers or overstuffed backpacks. I don’t get nostalgic about cafeteria food. I don’t long for dress code checks, busy work, or hand drawn dicks on everything. I don’t miss the sexual harassment and rampant homophobia. I have no desire to be present, dressed, and ready to begin learning when the first bell rings at 7:25 am.
I don’t miss the disrespect from others that defines being a teen girl. I don’t miss my internalized ableism, sexism, and homophobia. I don’t miss laughing along with racist jokes because racist friends were better than none. I don’t miss asking for permission to use the bathroom.
I don’t miss high school. So far, my thirties have been the best years of my life and I have hopes that my forties might be even better. I’m safely out as gay now, something I could not be in high school. I know myself so much better now. My highs aren’t as high, but my lows aren’t as low: my adult life is calmer.
There are things to enjoy about youth and even high school, and if you’re a teenager I hope you can squeeze every possible happy moment from the experience. Then I hope you have many more, happier years ahead of you. I’m not going to tell you these are the best years, because I am not a fortune teller and don’t know what adventures and trials await you. Just believe happiness after high school can happen for you.