Every year, I assign a final senior essay that is an inquiry about what the graduating students learned in high school. It’s an important reflection on their last four years of their lives, those years that are far too often a precarious bridge from childhood to adulthood. As I page through the reflections filled with their lessons, joys, and sometimes regrets, it is always evident that the real learning isn’t from the academic content of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, it’s from lunch table conversations, a whisper from a teacher, an F in math. It’s from being late to first period, sending silly snapchats in science, finding your best friend two seats in front of you in English, and from making (or missing) the honor roll or basketball team.
All the essays leave some sort of impression. I often get funny looks at the coffee shop as I sit in the corner and laugh aloud at funny lines, or sigh at the all too familiar feelings of social isolation and academic pressure. And every so often, I stumble upon an essay that scuffs its wet shoes on my welcome mat, makes itself a cup of tea, and lingers a while on my couch. This essay did just that. In fact, I even had to get a little more metaphorical honey for the tea. It represented the lessons and emotions of high school in such a genuine and raw way. I immediately talked to Jada–the beautiful author of this peice–to see if I could publish it on this blog. So here is what is learned in high school, the ugly and the beautiful, from her perspective (published with her permission).
I hope it makes itself at home for you that way it did for me.
Telling your mother you want to kill yourself because of her is as earth shattering as the moment you took your first breath from the womb. I will soon find later that I allowed lies to slip through my teeth from anger. Pristine lungs that once filled with fresh air are nothing more than charred up lumps of coal from all the cigarettes I’ve smoked on the way home at 10:30 because I am trying to drown my sorrows in drugs that I don’t even understand.
“That’s just high school,” she says when I tell her I might commit tonight.