It seems like only yesterday, or at least only a few years ago.

High school.

With the exception of adult responsibility and a much clearer head, I remain a fine-tuned version of the same girl who roamed the halls of Our Lady of Lourdes a nondescript number of years ago.

I've refined certain things about myself in a big way, let a good amount of immaturity linger, and even though I'm well into the real, working world, a connection to the girl I was in high school will always be. I just wouldn't listen to much of her advice, because, although she had brains and creativity for days, she had no idea what was in store for her.

I still feel that bond to who I was in my formative years because it, coupled with tragic and triumphant life lessons, brought me to where I am today. I don't have the most prestigious job, a fancy house or a brand new car, but I care very much about what I do for a living, I'm nice to people, I'm surrounded by people I love and I'm healthy.

But I'm not done yet.

I have a world of things to accomplish - things I never could have imagined in high school - and I'm determined to do so. So, whenever I hit a patch of rough road, I look to times I never thought I'd survive and know with strength, there is always hope.


Problems are very different in the adult world and perspective plays a huge role in deciding on what warrants the energy of anger and sadness.

Emotionally, I remember crying so hard I couldn't breathe over many things that seem completely irrelevant now. Some examples of things that would really turn my eye faucets on full blast were:

- Being grounded and missing a night out with my friends.

- Heartbreak over boys, whom I thought I loved. Most of which likely still live in their parent's basements.

- When I wasn't allowed out as late as some of my other friends.

- Any time anyone called me "fat" during my chubby phase.

- When an upper classman said "I had the prettiest face of the freshman class," because to me, it meant I had an OK head, but the rest of me was just a mess.

- Having the guts to be different, but reeling inside over comments by classmates and adults who thought different was bad.

Believe me, you'll recover from most of these things. I pretty muchhave. The sting may exist in that little voice in my head which loves to give my self-esteem a back-hander, but as I grow up and accomplish things in life, I shut that voice up and focus on the fulfillment of my life, my way, on my terms - not something I think is right for me because everyone else is doing it.

No one ever got anywhere being a big snooze or a carbon copy of everyone else.

Individuality, you'll find, is the coolest.


Academically, some of the stuff you will learn is garbage, some is knowledge gold, but it's all worth learning because it conditions the mind to grow and learn and improve, which you'll generally want to do throughout the course of your life.

You may hate some of these subjects, but they come in handy, I promise:

- Math - sure, you'll have your fancy iPhone calculator on you at all times, but, even if you use zero math at your job (which I doubt), figuring out tips, who owes what when the bill comes at the end of dinner and if a sale is worth it by figuring a few numbers in your head quickly comes in real handy in the real world.

- Science, because, yeah, science. It applies to life because it explains a lot about why we're here and what we're made of.

- English - You may not enter a career in which you'll need to know proper English, but if nothing else, it will make your statuses on Facebook, and, hopefully, your resume, more accurate, which, in turn, will make people take you seriously when they need to. Grammatical errors let the value right out of your thought balloon, weakening your arguement.

Also, you may own a business some day. That business may require a sign in the window for some reason, so please, if nothing else, nail down "you're" and "your," and "there," "their" and "they're," as well as the right time to use apostrophes and quotation marks. Putting quotes in unnecessary places makes what you're trying to say sound very suspicious.

And, OMG, plz dnt do dis, k?

Shorthand is great for taking notes and texting, but don't use it regularly in life. We, as a society, cannot afford any more dumbing down.

Social status

Socially, you need to understand that your popularity in regard to what you can do in sports, how many friends you have and what kind of clothes you wear all blurs when real life sets in.

What's going to matter is who you love, who you hurt, who you help. That is important in your relationships with other people, but it's most important in your relationship with yourself.

Your looks, your weight, your acne, your braces are a faint glimmer of the person you can and will become. We have the ability to reinvent ourselves at any point in our lives as our tastes and priorities change.

Trust me, that whole popularity contest is something you will look back on and laugh at for many reasons.

High school is a major stepping stone into life. Mind you, it isn't everything. It's four short years (depending on where you attend school, it could be more), which boils down to merely a climb up a huge ladder before the inevitable splash into the real world.

It's nothing like that new celebrity diving show, "Splash," though. That's special all in its own.

The splash into the real world sometimes doesn't hit the day after graduation - it can hit long before depending on life events or much farther down the road depending on one's dependency on others and efforts to become an adult.

Some will succeed, some will find happiness in its various forms, and some will choose to live in their parent's basement, not work and live off the system where they will remain in a perpetual state of high school because it's a place where they feel safe, but there's so much more out there.

It takes guts to enter the real world; it can be a scary place. Those who choose (not those who truly need assistance) that low-life of luxury, working the government for money they don't deserve, lack motivation, but more importantly, lack purpose.

Everyone is destined for a purpose, but that can get muffled. Self-doubt caused by lingering self esteem issues, substance abuse or a simple fear of change and the unknown can put your purpose on permanent pause if you don't take the time to reset and reevaluate what's really important.

In hindsight

My advice I'd give now that I'm all old and stuff?

- Pay attention in all of your classes. Being smart is not "geeky," it's good life preparation. The more knowledge you nail down, the better chance you have for success. And knowledge isn't always measured in statistics and algebra problems. Learn a trade if your strong suit does not lean toward academia.

- Listen to the advice your teachers have to offer. Teachers can give awful advice; it has happened. There are, howver, a few teachers I wish I had listened to. Teachers who were the biggest pains in the behind who wore really bad clothes, who I dismissed because I assumed they had no idea what they were talking about. Teachers see you daily and monitor your growth as a student. They often see things in you that you may not yet see. At least consider their advice, don't dismiss it.

- There are bad people in the world. There are mean people in the world. By loving and focusing on yourself and realizing your full potential, you can shut them up. You'll never be able to get inside someone else's head and reprogram their thinking (how about it, science?), but you can condition yourself to become resistant to their poison.

The bad apples. The mean people who constantly put others down, they really don't matter. After graduation, you'll lose touch with most of your classmates and you'll meet people from all walks of life. Some of them will be like you, some of them couldn't be more different, but they will introduce you to new and exciting things, and some may be worse than the people you had to deal with in school, but you'll have encountered their kind before and realize, as irritating as they may be, they still don't matter.

Those who spout off their opinion as if what you are doing is wrong and what they say is always right are lacking something major deep down. They need validation and they look to criticize you to get it. Don't allow them to do that.

Problems on this planet are bigger than a lot of us. Some people were born to help tackle the big stuff, but, if that seems overwhelming to you, just focus on you. Focus on contributing to the good of the world in your own little way. Be a catalyst for positive change. Through your actions, ignite ideals, morals and a respect for life people often leave by the wayside in their quest for popularity and success.

Just don't sweat the small stuff and don't ever doubt yourself or what you're capable of.

And most of all, have fun - forever. Never stop laughing and never stop doing things that make you happy because you are afraid of what others may think of you.

In the next few weeks I'm going to focus on the theme of prom. My approach may be unconventional, and I'm not sure how many high school kids take the time to read my column, but if things I've learned help even one person in even the slightest way, it was worth saying.

My prom promise to you is the best is yet to come, maybe not the rest in this prom series for this column - I wouldn't want to make empty promises - but definitely for you.

(Jenna Wasakoski, a News-Item editor, is a graduate of Von Lee School of Aesthetics and is certified as a professional makeup artist.)