An Unorthodox Reflection on High School

Jacob Reeves on his first day of kindergarten.

Jacob Reeves on his first day of kindergarten.

Jacob Reeves, Journalist

You may not agree with the following perspective, and that is ok. High school is considered to be among the most formative years of your life; you are told while growing up that there is an absolute path to success: create study habits, find a good group of friends, stay out of trouble, and maintain a high grade point average to ensure placement in a good secondary school, allowing you to graduate with a degree and become employable. Failing to accomplish the goals that you set for yourself during this time can be immensely disappointing, but there is a catch to this.

A friend once told me that our entire life is a game, and those who recognize this are often the most successful people, the ones who win the game. Winning the game can take many forms; it can come in a large sum of money, through respect or praise from others, by participating in activities or developing skills that are self-fulfilling- even partying and living a life of constant excitement. You can win the game in many ways, because you set the parameters of your own game; you determine what constitutes a win. Because of this, some individuals consider a win as being something that another individual would consider an absolute loss; and why some people are happy in situations that you may find to be less than desirable. My friend believes that this is the perspective that should be taught to children growing up, rather than the pathway that students are urged to take the moment that they step foot in a classroom.

As much as I appreciate and agree with the way that my friend simplified life in this way, I realized that there is a caveat to this ‘game’ analogy, and it comes during high school. In many instances, I have found myself changing what it means to win the game, allowing myself to make mistakes, and constantly escaping the impending losses to the game that I have set myself up for. If I get a C in a class, I lose; If I get below a 3.8 GPA I lose; If my presence is not wanted by others, I lose; If I believe my appearance is unattractive, I lose. And despite falling short in each of these scenarios on multiple occasions, I have not allowed myself to lose. Obviously, this defeats the entire purpose of the game. I have come to realize that in high school, we tend to set goals that are unattainable. This is because we have not yet established what truly winning the game is. It is by allowing ourselves to fall short of these unattainable goals that we learn what a true win is, and we determine how to achieve it. 

As a graduating senior, in many ways I still do not know what winning my game will look like, but I know that I am going to win. The most valuable skill I have learned from school is that I can make mistakes, understand my losses, and recognize that they are part of my path to succeeding. In many ways, the path to success that we are encouraged to take from a young age provides a great foundation for success later in life, but realizing that mistakes are a crucial part of the path is a step that really only comes in high school. Although I will likely fail to reach goals or meet certain expectations in the future, I will not consider these to be losing the game, nor will I be making excuses to avoid losses; rather, these will simply help me figure out how to win the game.