Today's the first day of school for Birmingham-area students, and parents, you may be stuck for words of wisdom to offer your children.
As always, Patch exists to make your life ridiculously easy. Read on to see what these five local editors in a community near you had to say from recent experience and if one or more of these short essays resonates with your family, feel free to share them.
Think big picture
Anyone who tells you high school will be the best time of your life is lying. It's only the pre-game to life. Your friendships will change, relationships will start and end, tests will be aced and failed, but even a year after you graduate, every moment that seemed earth-shattering will be a memory. That's not to say what happens in high school doesn't matter, but try to keep sight of the big picture. If you don't smoke or get hit by lightning, you've got another 60 years ahead of you. Even if 2,000 of your peers see you at your worst, there are another seven billion people around the world ready and waiting to see your best.
- If you're wearing clothes to make some sort of statement, be prepared for that statement to embarrass the heck of you when you see pictures later on.
- You don't need a date for a dance - friends are more fun and you don't have to be polite to them all night.
- Braces can't be helped, but stick to plain white bands as you get older. Colors only make it worse and sometimes look like you have food stuck in your teeth.
- Unless it's Dec. 21, it's not the end of the world. Talk it out, take a breath and start making plans for those next 60 years.
— Jenny Whalen, local editor of Macomb Patch
Learn outside of class
My advice to young people going back to school: get involved. No matter whether you're going to college or heading to high school, don't be afraid to sign up for a club you've always wanted to join, or maybe a group you've never thought of checking out. Believe it or not, these are the places where you'll meet your friends and gain the life skills you can't learn in a classroom.
I met my girl friends while playing soccer. My best friend found his voice in our high school theater group. And I learned most of what I know about being a journalist while working on my college newspaper, from time management to writing and editing real stories. It may be a little scary to jump into something new, especially if you're shy — I know I was (and still am, sometimes) — but it will make your four years of high school and college worth it.
— Laura Houser, local editor of Birmingham Patch
Learn how to learn
"When are we ever going to use this in the real world?" is the call of the student who lacks confidence but not irritation. Every student should understand that in frequently using diverse problem-solving methods, there is a great chance of improving their job prospects ... as long as the job market plays along with them, of course.
To hear the phrase used is offensive in itself and students should know that. After all, most things look pretty real to me. Consider the classmate whose concentration wanes with every disruption, or the teacher who has doubts about remaining in such a difficult field amid new standards and cuts to benefits and pay which originally made the job feasible.
A look ahead to college courses doesn't offer much indication that your classwork will be any more "useful." Why not use this year to show off how smart you can be?
— Tim Rath, local editor of West Bloomfield Patch
Be nice, have fun
My advice? Be yourself. Don't get caught up in trying to fit in or be popular. None of that matters after high school and you'll be happier if you don't have to constantly try to be something you're not. If you start out being yourself, you'll make the right friends — and those friendships will be lasting friendships.
I can promise you that absolutely no one college-aged or older is going to care that your were prom king or on homecoming court. What they will care about is that you're a good person, which leads me to my next bit of advice — be nice. Seriously. It seems so simple, yet I see so many kids (and adults) who can't seem to follow this. Don't be the person that picks on others, instead be the person to stand up for others. Being nice can be contagious, you never know how that one smile at someone in the hallway, or a simple "good morning" can impact a persons day.
Last, but not least, have fun. You're only a kid once, don't squander away your high school years trying to act like an adult. Be silly, laugh with your friends and don't take yourselves too seriously. After all, it's just high school.
— Brooke Tajer, local editor of White Lake-Highland Patch
Judge not, lest ye ...
High school is hard. There will be emotional bruises from hurt feelings, failed relationships and plenty of disappointments during this phase of your life. Believe it or not, there is life after high school. There will be new experiences, new relationships and new opportunities.
My advice? Don't be afraid to fail or make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Also, high school always has its different cliques. Don't judge people that are different than you. Don't believe everything you hear. Take the time to form your own opinions. Most important, realize that you are young. Don't take yourself too seriously. Have fun! Enjoy being a teenager.
— Nicole Krawcke, local editor of Brighton Patch
Prepare for change
When you’re 17, you think you have the world figured out.
My plan was to get out of Michigan as soon as possible, with “possible” meaning, “Does my car have enough gas in it to get to the Ohio border?”
And yet, here I am: Living and working in my hometown of Dearborn. Positively settled down at age 27. A homeowner! Probably never leaving Michigan. And happy about it. Who woulda thunk?
My point is this: Whatever your “plan” is for after high school, prepare for it to change. Boyfriends, best friends, college, where you’ll go, what you’ll do — you may think you have it figured out, but if you only have one idea in mind for what you want your post-high school life to be, you will most likely be disappointed.
So go with the flow. Sure, make decisions–which college to attend, who to date. Enjoy what you’re doing or what you’re studying–and if you don’t, change. Now is the time to be fickle, screw up and pull a 180 on your life. You may not end up where you thought you would, but you’ll likely end up happier.
— Jessica Carreras, local editor of Dearborn Patch