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  • Writer's pictureRaveena Kay

Advice I'd tell my high school self

The #10yearchallenge got me thinking of what life was like 10-11 years ago. It was definitely more mundane and choices felt like they were already made for you by parents and the suburban privileged culture. At #NapervilleNorthHighSchool (NNHS, a predominantly white rich suburban high school) there was a culture of perfectionism. You had to take the hardest classes, maintain a certain GPA, become a leader in an organization, volunteer, play a sport, socialize, eat, sleep, and be a teenager. I still don't understand how I sat in school from 7:45 am- 3:15 pm, but then again I didn't know college would be easier.

For me, high school was 10X more difficult than college and here is why:

1. Pressure to follow the "path"- You had to be an all around excellent student in order to get into a "good" college. Well I'm here to tell you, fuck it. It will not matter where you go, it will only matter what you do. I went to SLU for one semester, hated it, dropped out, went to UIC and thrived in that environment because I didn't feel like I was back at high school. SLU felt too much like NNHS, perfectionists trying to become doctors, lawyers, or business people. No diversity of race, thought, or socioeconomic status.This brings me to my second point.

2. Race played a role in your identity/personality- As much as you didn't realize it in high school, you reflect back and do see how people treated you differently, even if sometimes it was subtle. People assumed you were smart and asked you for answers. Friends did not understand the Indian parenting culture. You would be the only indian person in a class sometimes. You'll also see that there is no diversity towards those who are deemed as "popular" because beauty standards and models were only white at the time (but things start to change as you get older, the beauty standard begins to shift and includes POC). All of this probably wasn't intentional, but it shows the subconscious of the suburban life. BUT know that at UIC it will get better because as they LOVE to say "we are one of the top 10 diverse universities in the nation". You also understand white privilege a lot more when you take a sociology class and then suddenly your experience as an Indian American brown girl will make sense. You'll realize that you did not have as many options of where to go to school because you would never feel completely comfortable in the south or a university that consists of WASPs. You'll realize that you have to check your own implicit biases a lot and will have to explain to a lot of friends about white privilege/the brown girl experience.

3. You will be a people pleaser towards friends, a listener, and very quiet throughout your 4 years of high school, but then in college you find your voice. You stop caring what people think and start speaking your mind. You realize that life is not about pleasing those around you; it is about personal growth and finding your true identity/self because "once you learn to love yourself, then you're able to love others".

4. Grades don't matter as much as you thought they would. It is more about experience.

5. You are going to forget 98% of the material you learn. You will never forget that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. AND you will never forget the "life" skills HS taught you (communication, leadership, problem-solving, patience).

6. You will wish that you were taught more about how to file taxes, invest, cook, sew, fix a tire... you know... important everyday life tasks.

7. You will learn that all that anxiety and depression you felt will make sense in July 2012.

8. You will be able to deal with the unfortunate and uncontrollable situations that happened to you in those first 2 years, even though it will give you major trust issues.

9. You will still/always hate group projects where you don't get to chose your partner(S).

10. You will become a much better person because of your HS experiences.

You did do some things right though!

1. You did not find guys at NNHS to be interesting/different, and also saw no point in dating, so you waited until college and graduate school to find people you actually enjoyed. Not dating in HS/until you felt independent helped you to develop your identity without a guy present. This helped you to be independent and not need a guy, but want one. You will have to go through a lot of duds until you find the right one, but it will have been worth the process.

2. You made a fantastic group of HS friends, who, even when they end up in Seattle or NYC... everyone still will have found time to reconnect.

3. You took the time in HS to learn, grow, build your work ethic, and converse with fascinating teachers.

4. You joined organizations you found fulfilling and developed your leadership skills that you will eventually use in life.

5. You never followed the crowd and didn't care about popularity; you just wanted to be you even when people around you were trying to get you to be different.


Raveena Kay

About the author: Raveena Kay was born and raised in a Chicago-land suburb and currently resides in Chicago. Dog-lover, occupational therapist, entrepreneur, and now novice blogger, she hopes through humor, insight, and research her blogs will foster better relationships between people, improve one’s self, and increase one’s mental strength.

Through her background in psychology, sociology, and occupational therapy she hopes to inspire others to think critically about social issues and create more social activists.

She will also use her own Punjabi-American upbringing as well as her experiences throughout her child/adulthood to hopefully reach a wide array of people who are dealing with mental health issues, family issues, identity crises, or personality hindrances in order to create a more introspective community.

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