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Art by Olivia Durr

Path of Maturity: Finding Yourself in High School

by share

I didn’t think when looking back on life, as a child, that I would be confused. Things were much more simple, obstacles seemed to only pop up when I didn’t study for a test or ate too much candy during Halloween. 

Throughout the years, the pain started to come from external reasons such as toxic parents, incapable teachers or disingenuous peers. I’ve learned that not everyone wants to build you up, nor do people build you up in the same way. But life has an odd way of working out. I have overcome obstacles, and have grown a new skill each year. I am still me, but I am a new better version who can tackle many things compared to my freshman counterpart. Once you work out your sadness you become stronger than you were before. 

I’ve met other people who learned from self awareness, too. They remembered and recovered from the past, so they do not repeat the past. Here are some of their stories of what they’ve experienced and how they’ve changed in their years of high school.

Shemar, 18, who goes to North Atlanta High School, extinguished the person he was to become the person he wants to be during his time in high school. An introvert who was a people pleaser, he said he came to understand what was truly important to him. 

Throughout his four years of high school, he has shifted as a person to be careful who he shows grace to and who he is friends with. He grew from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. 

“When things are wrong in your life, remember the times that were right,” he said.

He was able to learn from his mistakes as well as others. 

During freshman year, Marianna, a 17-year-old senior at North Atlanta High School, was vibrant and energetic. However, in 10th grade she moved from Greece to the United States. She had to change friends and learn to trust people. She says she has become dull and wears dark colors. She said she’s learned, “Don’t trust everything you see.” Her change was impactful. She learned to overcome the pain of the move. Even though she’s not as happy as she was before, she says she’s realized, “It is ok to not be ok.” 

Elise, another senior at North Atlanta High School who’s 17-years-old, thinks her 9th grade self used to be “stupid, gullible and extremely insecure.” She also overcame her obstacles such as sexual harassment, depression, self-harm and battling herself internally. 

“I am my biggest obstacle,” she said. 

Elise says she found herself — “I started understanding myself better,” she said in a text. 

When asked about words for people who are going through any kind of pain she said, “It’s not as bad as you think.” We all go through pain and there is “nothing wrong with getting help.” 

I agree. I was not the only one going through pain during high school, but I definitely went through it alone. I was living in United Arab Emirates for three years taking school online and in China for one year in a so-called “international” school. But I was alone, having traveled to places where I no longer saw my skin tone. I stopped talking and trapped myself in a sea of false comfort — a safe space in my own mind. But I see now that I was trapping my pain instead of expressing it. 

This year, my senior year, is the first time I do not feel alone. Being in a place where I can see people like me, physically and mentally, shows me that no one is alone. I am around more people I can feel inspired by, figuring out who I once was and who I want to be. I can be myself without calling it a facade. 

We all face pain in high school, and it shapes us into the strong people we are meant to be.


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Join us for our VOX Investigates: Equity in Education print release and community dialogue event on December 14th! This is our semester-end showcase of teen voices, providing a chance for teens to share their work in a caring community of peers while networking with each other and the adults who support them. This year’s event will be Saturday, December 14, from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Decatur Library located at 215 Sycamore St, Decatur, GA 30030. RSVP at

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