High School/My Life

Freshman Check-in

When I think back to my freshman year of high school, a couple of things immediately spring to mind: the plaid pattern of my Catholic school skirt, the best ranch chicken wraps from the cafeteria, and the smell of the weight room (which I never stepped foot in, but always got a good whiff of on my way to French class). And I remember having a really big crush on a boy who played football and chess, who didn’t know my name because we didn’t have any classes together.

By now, my dear freshman friend, you’re probably in a pretty good groove when it comes to high school. Your locker is set up, you know the route between your classes, and you actually respond to your Spanish name now, right? So it seems like a good time to stop and evaluate: how are things going so far?

Since you’ve got the basics under control –- like knowing which days there are ranch chicken wraps in the cafeteria -– it’s as good a time as any to check in on some of the bigger, more important things that are essential for your high school career: your time, talent, and treasure.

Time

Every day has 24 hours, and you’re probably spending 9 (on average) of them on Snapchat. (Yes, Snapchat. What, did you think I was going to say, sleep? Ha!)

But actually, there are people who study youth culture -– that’s your culture -– and the average teenager in the U.S. today spends more time engaging with media than they do on just about anything else, including school and sleep. That math doesn’t quite add up…

Stop and think about how you spend your time: is anything out of whack there? Are there any big time-wasters you could do without? Do you have too much free time, where you could be doing something awesome but instead you’re just cycling through your favorite TV shows, again? Are you trying to be healthy and balanced when it comes to school, family, friends, extras like sports and theater, social media, Netflix, etc.?

Decide where you want your time to go. Make a game plan, maybe by marking out time on your calendar or in your planner. Have your smartphone give you reminders. I know teens who have a daily alarm set for 3pm to remind them to pray. I know others who set their phone alarms with a message, telling them to crack open their Bible instead of hitting the snooze button. Pick one night a week to fast from social media and spend that time journaling or in the Adoration chapel.

If you aren’t happy with the way your routines have shaped up so far, stop and change them. Now. Establish good habits for your school year -– for all of high school –- now, and the four-years-from-now-version-of-you will thank you.

Talent

If you do have too much time on your hands, consider picking up some new skill to master with it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try a certain sport or activity and your junior high didn’t have it as an option – but now your high school does. Or maybe you have an amazing collection of undone projects on your Pinterest board – perhaps it’s time to bring those bad boys to life. Maybe you’ve been playing the same sport since you were in kindergarten, and you’re playing it still just because it’s what you’ve always done. But if you weren’t going to football practice, you’d have enough time to check out the newspaper staff or audition for the Fall play.

Some people head off to high school and just do what they always do, and some people make one activity their passion, and some people get to high school and join e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. School is going to take up a lot of your time, and so is sleep, and so is social media. So with the precious time you have remaining, stop and think about the best way to use your talents.

Maybe you should keep going with the thing you’ve always done, but chances you’re at a new school, with some new people, and new opportunities. High school might just be the perfect time to discover talents you never knew you had. Don’t be afraid to try new things – the worst thing that can happen is you won’t actually like the activity. If so, great -– that means you learned something new about yourself. And the best thing that could happen is you’ll end up finding a passion you can keep developing for the rest of your life.

Treasure

St. Lawrence was a deacon, martyred in the third century (famously grilled to death, while joking, ‘you can turn me over, I’m done on this side’). He was sentenced to death by the emperor, who came to Lawrence demanding the treasures of the Church, knowing that the pope had put Lawrence in charge of all the riches of Rome. Lawrence took the treasures he had been entrusted with and distributed them to the poor. When the emperor came to collect, Lawrence pointed to the people and said, “Here they are, the riches of the Church.”

St. Lawrence was onto something – and I’m not talking about messing with the emperor. The real treasure isn’t the newest smartphone or most on-trend sneakers… it isn’t stuff at all.

I remember my plaid skirt, what part I had in the play, and how good those ranch chicken wraps were, but none of those things are part of my life now. My best friends from high school, though, still are – and they weren’t even friends of mine from school, actually. They were all people I met at youth group.

My school friends and I had great relationships, but they were built on what TV shows we were into and which teacher was being the worst that week. Not bad things to bond over, but definitely shallow ones. My relationships with my friends from youth group were built on the realest thing there is: our faith. You may not go to youth group, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find friends who are focused on what matters most. Seek out virtuous friendships with people you can get real with and go deep with.

Your grades are important, how you spend your time matters, and you’ve got talents just waiting to be unleashed. But above all, your relationships are going to make or break your time in high school. So invest in them, wisely – choose your best friends carefully, and talk about things that matter. Get real with one another and lead each other closer to Christ.

And in the end, really, it’s your relationship with God that will mean the most. Focusing on Him, first, is a fantastic way to make these next four years some of the best years of your life. That, and a ranch chicken wrap or two…

About the Author

Rachel Leininger

I work for a retreat ministry called the REAP Team, where it's my full-time job to talk about sex, love, dating, and chastity (which can sometimes lead to some awesomely awkward moments). I love being Catholic, my bearded husband, watching movies, and browsing antique malls. The only thing I have against winter is the fact that there's no baseball. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @raleininger