Today, you start high school, the most wonderful-awful four years of your lives.
Wonderful, because you will make friends that will last a lifetime (or as long as Facebook exists), and you are making memories that, starting today, are fresh from the oven.
Awful, because you are surrounded by adolescents.
Don’t get me wrong: I generally like teenagers for many reasons, the most important being —
1. You have increasingly sophisticated senses of humor.
2. You can help lift heavy things.
3. You aren’t toddlers.
Nevertheless, everything you need to know about surviving high school with as few emotional scrapes and bruises as possible is in “The Breakfast Club,” the John Hughes classic that first hit the theaters back when I was in high school. Here’s that timeless movie’s lesson plan, summed up by Anthony Michael Hall et als. in the final scene:
“Each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.”
Remember, all teens are that all that in large part because of the way their parents are raising them. Nature matters, of course, but nurture molds. Consider that in the movie:
- Judd Nelson (the “criminal”) admits to being physically and verbally abused by his father.
- Anthony Michael Hall (the “brain”) recalls the parental pressure to get straight A’s.
- Emilio Estevez (the “athlete”) confesses to suffering under the weight of measuring up to his father’s disdain for weakness.
- Molly Ringwald (the “princess”) feels the pressure to be perfect.
- Ally Sheedy (the “basket case)” says that what she endures at home is worse: “They ignore me.”
Look around at the kids in your classes with you. Every one of them has crap going on at home that affects them, both in bad ways and in good. So do you. It makes you all who you are, while high school makes you how you act. Or, as Emilio Estevez’s character put it, “We’re all bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
And you will have to hide it to survive the Wonderful-Awful years, because if you don’t, the “athlete” character might duct-tape your buns together, or the “princess” might gossip about you from just a few lockers away.
But if you keep space between their crap from home and yours, and visit your true self when you’re alone or with trusted friends, coaches, counselors, and family, you will survive these next four years of high school. Understand that we as a society do a piss-poor job of teaching our kids to honor and hold their feelings, even though every single one of us has them. That may leave you with questions about how to survive the Wonderful-Awful Years. Luckily, “The Breakfast Club” has a few answers.
Finally, realize that chances are, the kids in the movie all now have kids your age, as do those of us who saw the movie as teens when it first came out. We were all, at once, athletes, brains, basket cases, princesses, and criminals. And we still are.