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In three weeks, you'll be starting high school, and I'm getting really excited for you.

This is a different feeling from when you started middle school. Because middle school sucks. Well, at least it does for a lot of people. I'm grateful it didn't for you.

I have some advice for you. (Hold the eye rolls, please.) This isn't about your grades or sports—we spend enough energy on that. This is about the little things that someday you'll remember as the big things: The laughs, the stories you'll still be telling in 30 years, the things you'll reflect on even when you're old. It won't always be easy. In fact, it might not feel so great while it's happening. But I promise each year of high school will offer more enlightenment and glimpses into a future world of independence, success, and, hopefully ...


Try something newat least once a year.
You're going to be going to a big school, which comes with a lot of opportunities, so you fortunately don't have to look very far. Just be open to trying them. Challenge yourself and try things you've never experienced before. A new sport, an elective or a club. You might be surprised what you discover in the darkroom of the photo lab.

Listen to your teachersespecially the weird ones.
You're going to have a lot of teachers now—some good, some not so good. But when you find one that seems to really enjoy what they're teaching, or have different views you haven't heard before, pay attention. I'll never forget staying after class listening to my two favorite psychology teachers banter about religion. I was so fascinated I was speechless! And it stuck with me forever.

Find your friendsand look outside your circle.
It's such a great feeling when you're to the point that you don't care as much about being one of the "cool kids." It's still hard for you at this age, but you'll find your people. How do you know who they are? Ask yourself: Who makes me feel good about myself when I'm with them? I remember a girl in 10th grade with blue hair who liked me because she thought my boyfriend looked like the lead singer of the Misfits, a punk band. We made fast friends. And while we didn't hang out outside of school, she was different, funny, interesting and made class a lot more fun.

Worklike at a JOB.
Not all learning happens in the classroom. Having a job rewards you with real-life skills—how to manage your time, how to answer to a boss, how to work with different kinds of people. Plus, having your own money feels great. I have as many memories, weird experiences and hilarious stories from working various jobs as I do from my time at school.

Love and sexif it doesn't feel right, it isn't.
I'm pretty sure you'll shut down and stop reading here, but I'm going to give you some advice anyway. Relationships in high school can be great. You might even fall in love. But you might not, too, and that's fine. You have your entire adult life to be in relationships. You'll probably experiment—just please be respectful of your body and others'. If it doesn't feel right, stop—it isn't. And trust me: You're not going to learn anything valuable about sex and relationships by watching something online.

Take risksand let go of perfection.
I'm not talking about drinking, drugs, or anything else that can harm you or others or get you kicked off your team. I'm talking about not always doing what others expect of you. There's a ton more pressure on you than there was for me, and I'm sorry for that. It's OK, even good, to get uncomfortable. Be stupid with your friends—I'd much rather you do it live than behind a screen. Confront the teacher you feel treated you unfairly. Have the courage to ask out the girl you've had a crush on since sixth grade. Find your personal style in clothes and music. And for God's sake, dance at the dance!

One final thing: While today I'm full of advice, if in the future I'm getting too involved in your business, you have my permission to tell me to butt out. You are a great kid—kind, smart and capable—and I can't wait to watch you ride the wave.

Written by Jill Carroll, marketing manager for West Michigan Woman.


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