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Dear High School Students, It’s OK To Be Yourself

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I’d like to dedicate this to one of the greatest people I know. Thank you Jake.

Throughout our lives, we are taught many things. We are taught addition and subtraction, we are taught to how to use the infinitive and irregular forms of foreign words. We are taught how Shakespeare came to be, and we are taught how the human body works. But what we are not taught, or warned about, is how high school can make you feel.

Over the past few years, I have had many people enter, leave, re-enter and then re-leave my life, and I know many others have experienced these troubles too. Most of these people are the people we see 10 months a year, 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. These people may not end up being lifelong friends, or even less often, the best people you’ll ever meet, yet these are the people who leave marks, imprints and scars all over your most vulnerable self.

Sadly, most of these people, you’ll never hear from after you cross that stage with that diploma that you all laughed about not being the real deal. And when you do hear from them it’s probably because A) you’ve become more than they thought you’d become, B) one of your relatives that they were “close” with died, C) someone in your graduating class died, or D) you end up going to the reunion you’d promised yourself you wouldn’t attend. However, it isn’t even about why they seem to forget about you.

High school will turn you, throw you, flip you, chew you, spit you out, crush you and then build you back up just to break you again. No matter what you are struggling with; grades, family, friends, worries of the future, drugs, money, sexuality, mental illness, racism, looks, whatever it is, no single person is immune to the cruelty of these four years. And before you get to thinking that I’m some stereotypical petty and annoying “I hate everyone at my stupid school” girl who despises public school just for the sake of getting retweets… Don’t. In fact, I love school. I value learning and education more than almost anything in this entire world, because sadly, it is a privilege and not a given. But I am writing this piece right now, to tell you that you are not alone. And just like everything else a person can go through, high school is temporary.

I could probably count how many true friends I feel like I can pour my heart out to that attend my school on the fingers of my own two hands (and maybe a foot if you include my favorite teachers). Like I said, people have left and not come back, simply because I needed some time and space to realize who I really was, and they decided that they didn’t feel like sticking around, which is completely OK. The most crucial thing, in my opinion, that you can do in high school, among all the chaos going on around you is find who you really are. Hell, not only in high school, but even after. The bravest thing you can do though, in this life, is be who you really are. So unapologetically be exactly who you feel you are in that moment, no matter who’s watching.

Maybe last year you were too afraid to wear those overalls, or talk to that guy, or come out as gay. I hope this year you will, and you acknowledge it, be okay with it and do it. Because you can… You absolutely can.

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Jenna Elsetouhy
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Hello! I am Jenna Elsetouhy, a 16 almost 17 year old living in the suburbs of New Jersey. My hobbies include speaking shitty French, listening to old records, and trying to change the world. Find me here, or on my blog, thescintillation.com.

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