Going against the grain in high school

Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

I am a high school senior in Running Start. I will be graduating next month, and I’m not going to prom. I don’t know where I will be next year, unlike most of the students graduating in my class. I’m not around the campus much, I haven’t been to a football game this year and I’m not involved in typical senior activities. And that is OK.

When I signed up for Running Start, I didn’t think too much about how it might impact the high school experience. I was no outcast, I had friends but not to the extent where I felt too connected to the high school. I always enjoyed freedom and independence, so Running Start seemed like the perfect fit. But over the two years that I have been at Bellevue College, connections to my high school dwindled. I took up new jobs and internships and took advantage of new opportunities available to me as a college student, and over time, I started to think to myself that I didn’t enjoy the typical high school life.

Being a graduating senior, there is a lot of emphasis on completing the high school experience, and it’s pretty much unavoidable wherever I go. With prom just around the corner, there’s no denying that it’s hard not to feel left out.

But when I stop to think about it, I realize that the reason I’m not going is because I was let down and pushed away by people at the high school – and why would I want to spend a full night and hundreds of dollars trying to fit in with people who treat me like that?

This is a dilemma that extends beyond prom and into the whole high school experience in general. It’s great in theory, but who am I really trying to impress? I know that I don’t really enjoy what I am supposed to enjoy, or do the things I am supposed to do. The only time I feel badly about it is when I am told what I should be doing and what I should enjoy. It’s not easy to shrug something like that off when it’s being constantly shoved in my face. But I don’t think it will truly matter as much as some say it will.

What matters is appreciating the people who do care about me, and spending time and energy on things that are fulfilling. It doesn’t make sense to desperately try to fit in somewhere when the people in that place don’t care in the first place – and this whole mentality can be isolating to people who just plain don’t fit in.

If the high school experience is all about fun, maybe it looks different to some people. Maybe fun means staying up until 3:00 a.m. watching romantic comedies with a few people who matter the most rather than trying to fit in at a big party filled with people who will forget my name by the morning, or maybe it’s just sitting on my porch with my dog enjoying sunshine on a Saturday afternoon.

I will be going on a road trip to the Oregon coast on prom night. A weekend away just me and my dog, with all social media platforms deleted from my phone. When I first decided to go on the trip, I had a tinge of shame. It seemed like I was somehow becoming an outcast and succumbing to my fate as someone who is unpopular. But when I thought about the alternative – going to prom with people who could care less about me – I decided that it would be nicer to go on an adventure after all.

Some people will fit in great in high school, find their niche and thrive, and some people won’t. And I’ve come to know that it’s fine to not fit in. The world is so much bigger and there is so much more to experience once it all opens up, and there’s nothing wrong with starting to grow and explore that bigger world before walking across a stage with a diploma in hand. Growing up a little earlier may be a blessing after all, and there isn’t a shred of shame in choosing to take the path that fits best.