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“The last three months of ninth grade were a struggle,” admits Leap Year fellow Alexis (pictured above). “The school year was about to end and I had finally gotten a wake-up call by my mom, teachers, and counselors to get it together. It took a lot of work to get my grades back up, and I had to stop goofing around every day.”

My Freshman Fail: Fitting In Is Not Worth It

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My freshman year of high school was a complete and absolute train wreck. Looking back now, I am a bit embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I went to a pretty decent charter school in Atlanta. We had excellent teachers, researched teaching methods, and a safe learning environment. I guess you could say I was a childish ninth grader, and I was highly distracted with “fitting in” with the wrong group of people. I wanted to feel like I belonged. I think a lot of people at my school were focused on “fitting in” and looking “cool.” It felt like everyone wanted what everyone else had: shoes, clothes, belts, hats, electronic devices, etc. For example, at my school, if you had Jordans, you were considered cool. If you had the newest iPhone, you were considered cool. You get the point.

My grades started off track and then slowly, they began to drop. Like I said, I was mainly focused on goofing off to fit in with those who were considered the “bad kids” or “cool kids.” I began to follow their lead, which led me to start falling behind in my classes. Looking back, I regret that incredibly now.

Was there ever a time at some point during middle or high school where you did something to look cool or to fit in? In high school or even in the movies you may see people categorized into stereotypical groups. You will see the classification of the groups at lunch or in classes. Many movies have taught us about some of these: the nerds, the jocks, the weird kids, and the nobodies. But at my school, we had the athletes, the smart kids, the chorus kids, and the “cool kids” aka the ones who were always getting in trouble for making the class laugh.

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I used to be an outsider. In middle school, I was the soft, weird, quiet kid. I told myself that ninth grade was finally going to be my year. And indeed it was. I was too focused on finally not being an outsider that in result I failed almost all of my classes. The last three months of ninth grade were a struggle. The school year was about to end and I had finally gotten a wake-up call by my mom, teachers, and counselors to get it together. It took a lot of work to get my grades back up, and I had to stop goofing around every day. I still ended up in summer school for my ninth grade summer. Was all of this worth it just to feel like I belonged?

If I could go back in time to change my poor decisions and actions, I would. Not only did I almost not pass, but I realized that you don’t have to change who you are to fit in. You can be yourself, and if nobody respects who you are as a person, then who cares? I am here to tell you to be whoever you want to be. Be yourself. You are not put on this earth to please others. Don’t change yourself to seem “cool” or to fit in. Trust me, I realized that while I was sitting in summer school and all my friends were out enjoying their summers. It’s not worth messing up your academic studies. If I could go back in time four years ago, I would tell myself :

Dear 9th grade Alexis,

I just want you to know that being an outsider is okay. Not fitting in because others think you’re too quiet or weird is okay. You don’t have to change yourself to prove anything to anybody. Remember work is always important in school. Every grade level counts. It’s wise to start off well your ninth grade year to start your GPA off right and on a good track. Always stay focused on your work, and remember work first, play later. You can goof off and play- you are young! But be sure to finish your school work first. Also, make sure you are goofing off in a way that you want to and not to impress others. Don’t be a follower. Be a leader by just being yourself.

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Sincerely,
High School Graduated Alexis


Alexis is a fellow in VOX ATL’s partner program Leap Year that works with recent high school graduates taking a gap year between high school and college. Learn more about them at theleapyear.org.

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