It's not easy.
Finding your own identity, coming into your own, realizing what you want to do for the rest of your life. High school isn't easy. I hear people talking about how easy it is, how laughable our education system is, how it's nothing compared to the gruelling hell in other countries.
You've probably heard it all before. You're not working hard enough, your grades aren't good enough, you aren't smart enough—at least not compared to that other kid. And yet, you're working your ass off every night until you feel drained and tired and lonely and there's an empty pit in your stomach. And that pit churns when you imagine the cruel world awaiting you on the other side of the finish line, claws outstretched.
You don't know if you want to go out there and face that monster.
There's expectations. They build up like walls that close in around you. The clock is ticking and deadlines creep up behind you as you struggle to stay afloat in this whirlpool of work. You might feel like you're drowning, like life is dragging you beneath the waves. You might feel alone and cold and scared, with no one there beside you; no light to guide you.
You might not know what you want to do. You keep talking to people and asking questions, but you still have more—more stupid ones, ones you're scared to ask in case they think you're stupid. You're unsure and being unsure is undesirable. The audience wants confidence. They want to think you know what you're doing, even though you're supposed to be turning to them for education. All the world's watching and you're on the stage and your knees are shaking. The words and rules swim around inside your head, feeling murky and swampy as you stare out over the shadows watching you.
You wonder what they say about you, in their deafening whispers; whether or not they judge you.
Before the show, you try on countless masks of different shapes and sizes. Some are recommended by those closest to you, and those who think they know you best. Others are thrust upon you by those with expectations, ones that you don't dare defy. And it gets harder when the masks come from people who are both close to you andhave high expectations for you.
Some masks won't fit right and your lines won't come out the way they were meant to. You'll be cast away sometimes, and when that failure comes, it can be the worst feeling in the world. It can feel like the world is against you, that you're barely standing, barely holding on.
Because what if this has changed everything? What if you've barricaded yourself from the "right path" and are now walking down a twisting, winding path that'll only hit a dead end? You can't be certain of the future, especially when sometimes you're barely certain of yourself.
Just who are you? Questions like these come and go, and the answers don't always add up. Are you what your parents want you to be, or are you the person your social circle see you as? Are you what your boss wants, or are you what your teacher sees? What do they even want or see?
You want to be able to walk in their shoes and see through their eyes, see what they think of you. Hell, you even want their successes. You want to live their lives. Because that's all this is now; a play, and no one knows what happens behind the curtains. You don't know their failures as nearly as much as you know their triumphs. You don't know their fears as well as you know their beliefs.
And often, that's how other people see you too. There will be critics; people who see your weaknesses and the holes in your performance, but sometimes those critics have a point. Just don't let them jab those points in so many times and so deeply that you bleed; instead, take those points and study them. You're not so flexible as to be able to bend to everyone's will, but you can still change and grow.
Sometimes late bloomers have the most beautiful blossoms.
You might find someone you think loves you, only to find out that that was just an act within itself, or maybe you just read the lines wrong. Whatever it is, when someone else crashes your story, don't let the mess they create on your page be the end of that arc. Rewrite it the way you want it written—rewrite it so that you can be happy with it.
Growing up isn't easy. Ask just about any person out there and they'll agree. We all have our difficulties and strengths and weaknesses, and while sometimes it feels like the world is against you, there's often a lot more kindred spirits out there than you might expect. There'll always be enemies, but there'll always be friends too. The world can feel like ice, but it doesn't have to. It can feel like warmth too, when you find your way through the thick ice and begin to see it thaw. Clarity can come to you at any time, and it doesn't have to be here and now.
Take things one step at a time and learn. Learn from others and from yourself; learn from mistakes and successes. Learn to love and be brave just as much as you can feel angry and afraid. Try and live life the way you want to live it to the best of your abilities, because here comes a thought:
It's okay to be afraid. And it's okay to be angry and jealous and bitter and uncertain. Your future isn't set in stone, and there's plenty of blank pages left for you to fill them with the rest of your tale. And you don't have to do it alone, or even right now.
So here's to the kids who feel scared and unsure, because there are so many of you out there. I know it's hard, but then again—what's life without those ups and downs? I raise my glass to each and every one of you—the glass that's always either half-full or half-empty—but I suppose I'll leave each of you to decide that for yourselves.