There IS Life after High School
I read an article a while back about a teenager who posted a video on the website itgetsbetter.org an organization devoted to helping struggling teens, particularly gay and lesbians, who were suffering constant bullying. The boy, Jamey Rodemeyer, despite participating on this site and having parental support, decided to take his own life at the age of 14 (source). I then learned of another story a few days later where an 11-year-old boy with a muscle disorder committed suicide because of a mugging and consistent bullying each time he went to school (source). These particular stories might be dated now, but similar accounts occur every year. They are tragic to me because I know what it’s like to be on the lower ranks in middle and high school. I can’t say that I received the same level of bullying that these boys did, but I am familiar with the dark thoughts that swim through ones mind. They tend to go one of two ways; either you picture your tormenter dying in extremely brutal ways, or you picture ending your own pain through similarly brutal, though perhaps quicker, methods.
Most of the blame for these incidents should fall on the bullies in question. They are the direct line of abuse. Maybe it stems from their parents or siblings or some other psychological disorder, but in the end, it is their behavior that pushes other teens over the edge. However there are others at fault here. It bothers me to no end how much emphasis is put on high school by mainstream entertainment. A new television show that will be all about music, lets set it in high school! Let’s reboot Spiderman with a new actor, director and story; it’ll be set in high school! Let’s write a book about a supernatural romance between a girl and a vampire; he’ll be in high school for centuries!
While it is true that not all shows, movies, and books rely on high school as their setting, it seems to be the go-to backdrop for mainstream storytelling. I’m not trying to point a finger at any one product as the cause of teen suicides but, rather, there seems to be a message going around that High School is something legendary that will be remembered for ages and set the benchmark for the rest of your life. A lot of this is just straight marketing; the biggest audience with money to burn (or parents’ money to burn) is teenagers, but I believe it’s sending the wrong message; that high school is important.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, education is very important to me and I encourage everyone to graduate and then pursue higher education. That’s not the focus of this article. The focus is to emphasize, to people who are in high school, that there is way more to life. I hated high school. I hated the people who were obnoxious for no apparent reason. I hated the drama that came with a high school relationship, and I hated all the weird things that were changing with my body. I was an introverted nerd, so that place wasn’t exactly my stomping grounds, it was hell.
In High School anyone wider than a twig is fat. Anyone without fashionable clothes is a scrub and anyone who spends more than a few minutes in the bathroom is a chronic masturbator. The problem is that everyone in high school is insecure about one thing or another, and because of the crazy, off-the-wall hormones, we take it out on each other with little or no filter. There is a pecking order and nobody wants to be on the bottom. But do you know what that pecking order translates to after high school? Squat! It doesn’t matter if you were at the top or the bottom because nobody looks at your resume and says “we’re very sorry but we can’t hire you because you were a scrub in high school”. Some people may carry their high school mentalities with them, but most adults are focused on their own lives and just want everything to work out okay.
After my senior year in high school, something incredible happened. The cloud of depression began to lift and my outlook on everything grew increasingly more positive. I encourage everyone to go to college because the difference between the two forms of education is staggering. In college, everyone is there for the same reason; to learn. It costs money to learn in college, and while I believe it should be lowered or abolished altogether (so more people can learn) it also weeded out a lot of the hateful people who I ran into in high school; people who didn’t want to be there and only excelled at making my life miserable. Every college student is so overworked that they don’t have time to treat each other like crap. While I’m sure there are a few exceptions, it’s the difference between 1 in 5 people being a jerk in college verses 4 in 5 being a jerk in High School. Trust me, you notice the difference and it makes life a heck of a lot less stressful.
Of course, I don’t have any statistics to back any of this up, it’s entirely based on my own opinion of both high school and college, but I wrote this hub because I hate to read and hear about more teen suicides.
High school, and the people who make it terrible, are not worth dying over. They’re petty and are only taking out aggressions on you to deal with their own problems. Deep down they fear they are inferior in some way and cannot cope with who they are, so they lash out at others who display it openly. They think (unconsciously) that if they prevent someone else from expressing themselves, they then justify their own repressed feelings.
There is so much more of life left after High School. It is little more than a bump in the road; a footnote that says “some crap happened here”. I just wish I could convey that message to struggling teens. Again, I can’t say that I experienced the same level of teasing and bullying, but I do know how angering it can be. I’ve had those dark thoughts and I’ve wondered if I could go on. High School is a crossroads, one that is meant to be passed over, not seriously dwelt upon.
- Survive through high school. You don’t have to enjoy it, you don’t have to ‘make it count’, you don’t even have to feel bad when you miss the supposedly ‘big’ events like prom. I didn’t go to my prom and do I regret it? Nope. There is no rule book that says you have to do all these things. People lead perfectly normal lives even though they didn’t do the traditional ‘high school experience’. If you miss something, move on.
- Join a club of like-minded individuals. Friends are a good source of support, but it’s very important that they be friends you can trust. I made the mistake of having friends I couldn’t trust, and ended up getting stabbed in the back so much that it’s forever stunted my friend-making abilities. Only in the last years of high school, and on, have I been able to find some people who I feel I can trust. If they make you feel bad about yourself, they’re not your friend, period.
- After high school, if they weren’t your friend, avoid them like the plague. One thing I’ve learned about all the people I hated in high school is that they don’t change after high school. It could be 30 years later and they still act like a jerk. Distance yourself from the toxic people entirely and never go to reunions. Also, don’t think that you’re amazing success will ‘show’ them. You could be the president and they would still make you feel like that bullied teen ages ago. Avoid forever.
- Screw Facebook. You know what Facebook is? It’s a digital high school. Suddenly all the drama, insults and lies are back in full force. Thanks a lot, Mark Zuckerberg. But that doesn’t mean you have to participate. If you have the stamina for it, you can micromanage your connections to make sure no toxic people get into the group, but if you don’t want to deal with it, just say no to facebook. (This applies to a lot of social networking websites as well.)
- A website for gay and lesbian teens that sends the message that acceptance of your sexuality and life in general, gets better after high school:
- USA National Suicide Hotline:
1-800-784-2433 (For thoughts of suicide)
1-800-273-8255 (For talking)
- Reach out is a website for sharing stories of life’s hardships to establish a community that helps each other get through tough times:
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