I regret my mean words. I still remember feeling nausea bubble inside of me as I sat in my high school’s journalism classroom trying to get a grasp on all of the tasks I needed to complete by the end of the week. From English essays about books I barely had time to read to extracurricular activities to college applications, the work on my plate was overwhelming.
With my palms moist and forehead clammy, I knew I needed to take a walk and breathe. I didn’t know where, but I just knew I needed to go.
When I walked back into the room, an ill-timed and unwarranted quip from a friend hit me. The comment itself wasn’t anything remarkable, nothing especially creative or ruthless.
Any other day, I would have kept a clear head and brushed it off. But it wasn’t the day for grace or a clear head. Before I knew it, a bitter string of mean words shot from my lips as I gathered my stuff and walked out.
Immediately, I knew that I had rattled a relationship I valued. And I regretted it.
Typically, in high school we’re fed narratives that tell us to fit neatly into cookie cutter stereotypes, make us expect that high school is going to be the best time of our life, or remind us that we need to have everything figured out. We’re not told, however, that high school can be stressful enough to push anyone to frustrated outbursts or upsetting and complicated situations.
But that’s the thing about high school. It’s a time us to experience ourselves in our greatest and our worst moments. It’s a time for us to be inexplicably emotional or painfully ambivalent. For me, high school was a time and space to start figuring things out about the world, about the people I surround myself with and, most importantly, about myself.
During the inevitable encounters with petty meanness, I grew more emotionally intelligent and learned about how I react to stress. I owe that largely to my mom. On days when I came home furious, I would start debriefing the events. Oftentimes, my stories would come out muddled and confusing. Luckily, my mom offered two significant things: a reminder that I wasn’t crazy and the gift of perspective.
In the moment, high school engulfs you. Dating drama, academic stress, and a myriad of other things cloud your vision. It feels like people keep adding more and more onto your plate.
Sometimes, you drop the ball, you hurt, and you get hurt. But that’s when we learn from our mistakes.
We learn how to deal with the consequences. And hopefully we do better the next time. We make horrible mistakes in the midst of our haphazard attempts at self-discovery. But that has to be okay because the beauty lies in the chance to do it again and do it better. Sometimes high school sucks, but often it sucks so the rest of life doesn’t have to. To me, that’s worth more than a little nausea.