Farewell: An open letter to underclassmen

Okay, breathe.

I don’t know whether it’s the general nostalgia that every graduating senior feels or the obligatory sense that we have to pass on whatever knowledge we’ve acquired over the years, but here it goes.

But first, I want to tell you that we know what you’re going through. Not in the clichéd “we know everything about high school because we’re seniors” way that you’ll hear most of us preaching every day. No.

I mean, we have felt what you’re feeling. Realizing you have three tests on one day, left your homework at home, and got a straight ten percent on a quiz, we know how it feels because we’ve done it, too. And those other problems? The ones you won’t tell your friends about because they hurt too much? Well, take comfort in the fact that we have them too.

In those moments, it feels like the end of the world. The pit at the bottom of your stomach won’t let you think about anything else. You start imagining best-case scenarios to help alleviate that gut-wrenching feeling.

Just breathe. After four years of high school, I can tell you it’s not the end of the world.

It’s easy to turn on your tunnel vision and think that your seemingly end-all obstacle will be the end of your future prospects. It won’t. High school is meant to prepare you for your future, not scare you into thinking you won’t have one.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everything will be A-OK no matter what.

Your momentary tribulations won’t kill your future but failing to pick yourself up will. Sure, we’ve all had our fair share of slip-ups. But, the one thing I would take away from high school is to get back up. Don’t wait for the universe to stop winning at dodgeball. It’s hard when it seems like there is simply too much that’s gone wrong. It’s easy to accept defeat and stop trying. Don’t do it. Keep trying. It will be worth it.

The mistakes, slip-ups and hardships we encounter in these four years, when we look back on them in 10 years, will seem minute and insignificant. But, that doesn’t mean they are unimportant. On the contrary, they have the most important role of all. They have the role of shaping our character.

A quitter? An overcomer? A survivor?

Hostile? Forgiving? Kind? You choose what you want to be.

Last week, I went to a panel on Activism Shaping American Politics. In it, a USC professor emphasized the importance of recognizing that “there is no Superman” to swoop in and solve your problems. It’s just you, yourself, and you. So, be your own Superman. Take whatever it is that life is throwing at you and throw it right back. And, do it with a smile on your face.

Remember that your trials and tribulations are testing your character. Will you become hostile, abuse your friends and family and give up? Or, will you move forward with kindness, knowing you have people who will support you, and come out on top?

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to have a few days (or weeks) to sit in bed, watch sad movies, eat ice cream and cry. But remember, when you’re done with your grieving, to be your own savior. Remember all the things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Remember what excites you. Remember what lights your fire. Try new things, explore a little, be a person you can be proud of — one your friends and families would be proud of.

Now I say all this with one final piece of advice. Those people who seem perfectly happy, without a single problem in the world? Even they have their share of hardships; you just might not see it under their mask of kindness. Everyone has struggles. Recognizing that will make it that much easier to overcoming your own. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing them, though. Your 10 on the pain scale might be different than someone else’s 10. But it’s still their 10.

So, once you’ve overcome your own struggles, walk a step or two in their moccasins. Help them overcome their 10. Pay it forward and you will be better for it.

So, my point? Yes, this is a time of hardship and struggle, but it’s also a pivotal point in determining the kind of person you will be. So, choose to keep trying, even when it seems futile. Choose kindness, even in the darkest of hours. Choose to help others, even when it seems like they don’t need it. Choose to be your own superman (or woman).

And, remember to breathe. It’s not the end of the world.