THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Sam
Freshman year I aimlessly wandered the halls of my high school, full of confidence as well as fear. I had very few friends in middle school, was uncomfortable with my body, and was not friends with anyone at my new school. My confidence grew out of my place on the Boys Varsity Soccer Team. I felt better, stronger, and smarter than the people around me. I was over confident. As a result, I wasn’t able to make many friends and any happiness that I felt was superficial. Half way through the school year my ego took a hit. I went down to Junior Varsity. I realized that cliques had formed without me, and my grades weren’t as good as I expected. I was a pretty unstable fifteen year-old. I needed to step back and slow down. I remember overflowing with emotions that I couldn’t comprehend.
Sophomore year, I had a girlfriend. I felt happier, healthier, and livelier when I spent time with her. I learned that feeling good wasn’t about my immediate satisfaction, but thinking of others. This is how I felt my best. I was far from perfect, but doing well.
Junior year was difficult and dedicated to my family challenges and getting into college. I had to buckle down academically as well as deal with family stress. I learned how to tune everything out and focus on my social issues, family arguments, and schoolwork for hours at a time. I stretched myself thin across school, family, friends and my girlfriend. I felt like I was unable to live up to the expectations of any of them. I was so focused on achieving a certain grade in school that I didn’t enjoy the process of learning. My family was disappointed in the amount of time I spent with friends, especially during a time of family turmoil. It seemed I couldn’t give my friends enough attention, so they thought I didn’t care about them. Finally, and often most importantly, my girlfriend was frustrated by the time I spent on everything else. I felt like I couldn’t win. I began to reflect. I wondered what actions I needed to take to replicate the happiness I experienced Sophomore year and had taken for granted.
As senior year began, I felt the intense academic pressure of applying to college. These pressures were exacerbated by difficulties with my girlfriend. We weren’t getting along as well as the previous two years, including weekly fights. My mother saw the emotional strain of the fights and started to pressure me into reconsidering my relationship. I questioned my happiness and mental health. I also felt I needed a change. I told my girlfriend we needed a break to think about how to sustain a healthier relationship; however, my biggest mistake was not insisting on time apart. We talked almost every day during the break and got back together. Within two weeks, we broke up permanently for the reasons we took the break.
The following months were chaotic with intense work for the seventeen colleges to which I applied. When the weight of my relationship and the application process were finally lifted, I focused on myself. So much that I was conceited and forgot about caring for the people who mattered: family and friends. I handled the break-up with my girlfriend poorly as well. I tried to sustain a friendship without giving us time to redefine ourselves. This was a huge mistake because we became even more angry and frustrated with one another. One day, my best friend sat me down and told me I needed to think about how I was acting towards the people in my life. I did and found myself hating the person I had become. I resolved to focus on my friendships and my family. I told my ex-girlfriend we needed to take a break from talking because we were having so much trouble communicating successfully. This improvement with my friends and family made me happy and more connected to the people I cared about.
Looking back on my high school experience I realize the importance of self-awareness and reflection. I also learned that healthy relationships and friendships are the most important aspects of my happiness. As I prepare for college I feel good about the best friendships I’ve ever had and an extremely healthy relationship with my family.