Stop & Smell the Roses

I went into high school with two goals: graduate and leave as soon as possible. I didn’t plan on having a lot of friends or making a lot of memories; I simply wanted to get my degree and move on.
I didn’t have the best attitude going in. I know it sounds cliche, but during middle school I never felt like I fit in, and I didn’t think that high school was going to be an exception. I was a little too loud, a little too outspoken, and a little too intense for my peers. I had never been bullied or even excluded by any means. In fact, most people were fairly nice to me, but that did not stop me from feeling lonely.
There were very few people that I actually felt comfortable being myself around. I always felt like I was performing as a character: a toned down, more palatable version of myself.

In an attempt to avoid any feelings of discomfort or the awkwardness of the “talking stage” when making new friends, I simply avoided people altogether. As a result, I had no friends. Sure, I had people that I talked to during classes, and I had people that I was friendly with in the halls, but I did not hang out with these people outside of school; in all honesty, they were more like co-workers than friends.

At the time, I thought that was the right way to go about my high school experience. After all, if I made friends, then that would only make for harder goodbyes at the end, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to avoid getting hurt at all costs.
At this time, I viewed high school as more of a pit stop. It was just a box that I needed to check off in order to move onto the next thing.

I wish that I knew what I was missing out on. I wish I appreciated the present rather than focusing solely on my future. I wish I had a different mindset going in.

It wasn’t until later on that I really stopped and appreciated all of the amazing opportunities that surrounded me. I realized that I shouldn’t have been taking classes and participating in clubs because I thought that I should; I should have been taking those classes and participating in those clubs because I could.

I finally saw all of the amazing opportunities for growth, memories, and relationships that were just passing me by. I finally saw high school as an opportunity for personal growth rather than just a stop along the way.

Since then I have met so many incredible people and had the opportunity to learn their stories. In return, they have all taught me so much about myself.

I didn’t want my life’s meaning to be measured up to how many AP classes I took even though I didn’t care about the subject or how many clubs I joined because I thought that I needed to. I wanted my life’s meaning to be measured by the amount of personal growth that I allow myself to experience.

Life is all of the lessons that you learn about yourself and others, it’s the relationships that you make, it’s making mistakes, it’s doing the right thing, and it’s all of the moments in between.

If I could change anything about the last four years of my life, I would have done nearly everything exactly the same. The only thing that I would change would be my mindset.

When you do everything consciously and with purpose, you learn so much more than the theory of evolution, how covalent bonds work, or what an independent clause is; you learn about yourself and who you are as a person.

I am so thankful to have made that switch. My friends, family, and teachers have taught me so many life lessons that I will keep with me far longer than the Pythagorean theorem.

I have made so many precious memories, gained so much life experience, formed so many valuable relationships, all because I stopped and smelled the roses.