Opinion: A freshman’s journey progresses through stages


We hear a great amount from seniors that are leaving our school and heading off to start their own life. Congratulations to the class of 2019 for all the work you put in to make it to where you are today. Venturing out into the public world is a pretty big deal, and is expected to change you a bit. However, we can sometimes forget how important our first year of high school is. During this time we go through so many different changes, including changes with our emotions, habits and social life. This change is especially apparent in deciding what we want to do when we get older. Losing friends because they went to another school, discovering your new favorite subject, maybe finding a whole new side to you, all set the stage for when it is your turn to step out into the world. Stepping through those gates onto campus is a realization that a very long journey awaits.

Citrus Valley High School student walking down the hallway. (BELLA ESPINOZA/ Ethic Photo)

The initial step

This step can almost seem illusive, like it hasn’t actually set in yet. This is when it is the first day of high school, and it just feels a little strange. You don’t feel like you belong, like the next day you can go back to middle school and everything will go back to normal. What has not caught up with you yet is that this is going to be a giant influence on you for the next four years of your life. It’s intimidating, looking around and seeing nothing familiar: the lunch table you and your friends would always sit at or maybe your meeting spot to talk during passing periods. All those things are gone, and you can feel so stranded. Or maybe you will jump through the gates with your head held high and a gut feeling that you are going to nail this year and conquer all the fears that had you worrying before. That’s totally great and will definitely pay off in the end. However, no matter which way you choose to start your new adventure, it is going to be a long road.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” -Lao Tzu

Settling in

At this point, you have probably memorized where all your classrooms are, found a place to sit at lunch and most likely gravitated towards familiar faces you recognize from your middle school career. You may not remember everybody’s name in class yet, but you’re working on it. It can finally start to seem real, that you aren’t going back and this is what has become your new life. Everyone is different; some may feel perfectly at home and seem like they already know everyone at school. Others can take a lot longer to feel at ease, and are not willing to open up so easily. You start to notice that it is different from middle school, but not just in an academic way. Going from knowing everyone’s name and waving to people you knew in the hallway,  to somewhere much bigger: a bigger campus, bigger people, bigger options. Then you start to wonder, where is it that I belong in this big, new world.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” -John Maxwell

Opening up to new

Whether you want it to happen or not, new things will start to happen, which can be both good and bad. Seeing as how there’s many more options available to you, that applies with friends too. There’s so many more people, so you are bound to meet someone new that you get along with. Once that happens, it opens you up to meeting tons of new people as your new friend will introduce you to their friends and so on. Sadly, this also means that some friends will leave. Not all friends are going to stay with you your entire life, and some come and go. This is something that can be not so easy to open up to. It is so hard to think someone that has been the closest to you all through middle school and elementary can leave and become a stranger again. Although it hurts to see a friend drift away from you, you have to remember the important part. You will meet more people that you may get along with even better. It won’t be the last time a friend leaves, but it will not be the last friend you ever make either. The friends that stick around are the ones you want to keep anyway, and, if it doesn’t work out, then it was probably never meant to be. You have to be open to meeting and making new friends as well as letting some go. Keeping an open mind is a very important part of starting high school; there’s so many new options and difficult decisions that you won’t be able to make and move on if you are not willing to try.

“Keeping your mind open in the face of uncertainty is the single most powerful secret of unleashing your creative potential” -Michael Gelb

Finding your safe place

Going into high school you can look around almost anywhere and immediately see all the different groups of friends: the athletic kids, the group that’s always studying and working hard, the gamers always talking about some new release. So many different people that have all found their place. Now where is your place exactly? What’s important to remember is that you are not living this alone. There’s plenty of other freshman that have to feel the same way you do. So why not talk to someone new? Say “hi” to the quiet kid in the back of your class, or say “hello” to the loud one in the front. You never know who you may just click with, so keep your mind open and experiment. However, you never need to change yourself no matter what; no matter how much you feel like you need to fit into a certain group, changing is not the answer. You won’t be happy when you constantly have to put on a mask that hides your true self. People that are similar to you and share the same ideas as you attract each other. As long as what you are portraying is actually you, you’ll draw in people just like you. Even if they don’t have the same preferences or opinions as you, as long as you enjoy hanging out with them there’s no problem. Don’t get caught up in feeling like you must have a certain clique. Maybe you and your group don’t have a title. You aren’t the sporty ones or the super academic ones, but you don’t need to be. They are your friends, and that’s all that matters. You don’t need a title to be a book filled with great times and fun adventures.

Buckling up

Now the year comes to an end, all the struggling from this big change is over. By this time, it’s just school, not an unfamiliar place or somewhere you are visiting; it’s normal now. There’s no more wondering when you get to go back because you know that door is closed and this is the only one open. You’ve got a comfortable group you talk to at lunch everyday and new acquaintances you wave to in the hallway. Maybe you have a new set of routines to get you through your long days, and you have officially calculated the exact amount of sleep you need to stay awake through your classes the next day. You’ve probably decided which classes are your favorite, and which ones aren’t exactly the best part of your day. Perhaps you have picked your favorite spot to get some peace and quiet, like studying in the library or sitting in the shade and reading a good book. You have discovered the little things you can focus on to help you in stressful times, like when the school serves your favorite lunch or you get to go to your favorite class of the day. Either way the hecticness has died down and you are pretty used to how things work around here. Now, of course, you don’t know everything; you’ll meet new friends and lose more too. You will discover new classes that you are interested in, and there’s bound to be more classes that are going to be tough. This year is setting you up for your future to come, so you can’t push it aside. Build yourself a good base in the beginning to make it less difficult in the future.You have to stay on top of things because there’s certain to be obstacles and lots of them. So buckle up because it’s only the beginning, and you are ready for the next adventure.

“You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong” -Unknown

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