The first eighteen years of our lives (depending on where you live or what you do) is spent in formalized education. From eight am to three pm we’re at school for a fourth of our entire lives, so when you graduate high school you’re suddenly hit with the realization that your life is finally yours.
It’s sort of ridiculous how little freedom I had back then as compared to now. If you’re taking difficult classes and extra curricular things, your high school career can suddenly be your entire life: getting up to go to school and going to bed in the early hours of the morning after you finish all your homework. I never had that much homework, thankfully, but it’s insane how America prohibits child labor laws yet allows for that to happen. Teenagers are starting to become actual people, after all, so what good is taking their right to live away?
If you’re like me, high school graduation results in a huge exhalation of relief that its all over, followed by an often unanswered question: What’s next? It can be easy to lay down in bed and fall asleep forever now that you finally have free will, but it’s important to remember that your life is yours to take it where you want it to go, not to sit there and watch it go.
As for me, I’ve clogged up my life with a lot of responsibilities I’ve given myself. I think everybody should be spending at least twenty hours a week doing something productive, be it school, work, or creating stuff (drawing, writing, painting, whatever). College is obviously a big hole that people jump into after high school (more than necessary, I would argue), but that isn’t the only option. College isn’t for everyone, and putting everyone in college actually worsens a lot of problems our society already has when a lot of jobs don’t require higher education.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that nobody really tells you about the change in responsibility from child to adult. When you’re in high school, you go to class, you get home, you do your homework, and that’s it. But after that, you have to be the one to get a job. You have to handle your own transportation, and if you’re not responsible enough to handle that job, you don’t get to keep it. Suddenly it isn’t “Micky’s party is this weekend, we need to go shopping for a present”, but instead is “Are you free this weekend? It’s Micky’s birthday” and if you’re busy, you’re busy.
It feels great to say no to things, but again, this is what my experience was. Many of my friends still have to go to Micky’s party even if they planned on doing homework that day, just because their parents told them to. But whatever the case may be, independence is a valuable thing. If you have it, learn to use it wisely and cherish it. If you haven’t found it yet, look for ways to strengthen it. It’s a lot harder for your parents to force you to go to Micky’s party if you have work that day. It’s not like they’ll call in sick for you. At least I certainly hope they won’t.