20 Years After High School


1998…it was a simpler time. The Internet was brand spanking new, Britney Spears had pigtails, Lindsay Lohan was still adorable, Brandy and Monica were arguing about who got the boy, theaters full of people were collectively yelling that there WAS room on the board for Jack (okay, that was 1997, but we were still mad at Rose in 1998), and the original iPod was still three years away from production.  

I graduated from high school in May of 1998. That’s 20 years ago people. 20 years!? I wish that I had some photographic evidence for you, but gosh darn it, we didn’t have digital cameras yet and my box marked “sentimental crap” with all the bad photos in it is in the basement with the spiders.

Finishing high school felt like the most exciting time of my life. I thought that I was finally being liberated and the world was at my fingertips! But despite my overwhelming excitement, I was still a teenager…so here’s crying Dawson to sum up all of the emotions I was experiencing when I finished high school and prepared to say goodbye to home:

It’s pretty wild to think about who I was 20 years ago, and who I thought I would turn out to be as an adult. At 17 years old, I was a vegetarian who never wanted to have children. Flash forward 20 years and I am a happily a paleo stay-at-home mom with three children. HA! If that’s not enough proof that you don’t know crap about yourself in high school then I don’t know what else you need.

It’s hysterical to look back at the naive young adult who was certain that she had everything figured out. I was moving to Chicago because that’s where every small-town 17-year-old belongs. College was going to be just like the show Felicity. I was going to study advertising and take over the world, or at least a beachside condo complex, because that’s what Amanda Woodward did (Melrose Place reference). And those were pretty much the extent of my life plans, although I wasn’t ruling out being the future Mrs. Zack Morris once my advertising firm took off.  

These days (while I drive my mom-mobile around wearing my sensible yet sassy athleisure ensemble and sipping my tea behind ginormous mom-glasses), I see the excited high school seniors running around town without a care in the world, except for saying good-bye to their hometown friends. There is so much that 37-year-old me wants to tell them, even though it would most likely fall on deaf ears…

  • Stay in touch with your hometown people, but don’t let them hold you back from meeting new ones.
  • Take some classes that really scare you and don’t worry too much about your grades.
  • If you fail the same class twice, it’s really not the right course of study for you.
  • Take advantage of the university counseling center, I promise you won’t regret it.
  • Eat the cafeteria food, I swear that one day you’ll miss it.
  • Don’t obsess about your appearance or body image, just enjoy being young and having your boobs where they are supposed to be.
  • Shouldn’t I say something about sunscreen?
  • Take a gap year (or a few) if you need it, in 20 years it won’t matter that you took a different path than your friends. 
  • A 4-year program might not be right for you, so figure out what IS right for you.
  • Seek out people who will challenge you, not just the people who remind you of home.
  • Life will knock you down, but you’ll get up again (I am SO sorry, but can you possibly write a post about 1998 without a Chumbawamba reference?).
  • Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a prescribed future, because you never know what life will give you.
  • No matter how exciting and pivotal this time in your life seems, you have a million more exciting moments in your life to look forward to.
  • NEVER forget the buddy system when you go out at night.

It is mind boggling to think that I am having daily fights with tiny people about eating a proper breakfast and brushing teeth, when the reality is that I am raising them to leave me. I am pouring my heart and soul into three people who I will one day drop off somewhere and drive away from. My mother left me at a University in Chicago when I was only 17 years old. That is insane. How in the heck did I get her to agree to that? And what was it like for her to do that?! It was like leaving a piece of her heart behind, that’s what. But she did it because she knew that she had done her best and raised me to leave the nest.

So much of one’s life comes full circle once you are the parent. Many things that you once drowned out with the Charlie Brown teacher voice all of a sudden makes sense. My parents weren’t trying to punish me, they actually were trying to keep their child safe by laying down rules and expectations! I’ll understand more when I have teenagers, although I think I’m starting to get it. I sure hope that my Mommy is there to hold my hand when I have to start leaving my babies at college, because I am definitely going to be a disaster.

Hopefully I am raising kind and resilient individuals who can handle the challenges that life after high school will throw at them and will make the world a better place. With my oldest currently being in 2nd grade, I’ve got 10 years to work up to it!

And if you have time for a more in depth reminder of the awesomeness that was 1998, here’s a You Tube clip that will make your day better and is chock full of songs that need to be added to a new Spotify list ASAP.

What words of adult wisdom do you have for the kids graduating from high school this year?


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