When I left school, I wanted to be a professional golfer. I finished my final ever exam (Geography), jumped into my mum’s car (Ford) and went straight to the golf course (Shhh). And even though my professional golfing aspirations were soon derailed by a love for writing and the classic ‘not being good enough to become a professional golfer’, I can say that without a doubt, life has gotten sooo much better after high school.
This is coming from someone who loved school. Okay, before Year 8 I had no friends and psoriasis, but from Year 8 onwards, I lived for three things: golf, chocolate and school. The amazing thing is that whether you love school, like I did, or whether you hate it, like I did, you have so much to look forward to when you walk out of that final exam.
Here are the five main ways your life gets better after high school:
Monday: no school. Tuesday: no school. Wednesday: no school. Thursday: no school. Friday: no school.
Your new-found freedom will be equal parts exciting and terrifying. But that’s what being an out-of-school teenager and then a twenty-something is all about - trying things, succeeding at some, failing at others, all the while being scared out of your pants. Sometimes literally. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat on an ants’ nest.
I know it’s hard to believe, but after high school you will have a better relationship with your parents. You’ll realise that, actually, being a parent to you was not that easy. You will forgive your mum and dad for the mistakes they made. In time, you will also ask for forgiveness for the mistakes you made. You will learn how to be kind to yourself. You will learn how to say sorry to friends, crushes, people you hurt. And you will learn how to never apologise for being who you are. Most importantly, perhaps, you will buy a pillow made of memory foam. It will change your life. All of these things will happen to you in one form or another after high school, but what if you could make your life better right now? Whether you love school or hate school, whether you’re Level 1, 2 or 3, you can! And it doesn’t involve becoming dux or a Scientologist, so I encourage you to read on.
If there is one thing you can do to make your life better right now, it’s to notice moments in your day when good things happen. It could be an incredible sandwich you have at lunch time, it could be noticing the soft morning sunlight on the asbestos-ridden science building, it could be making a joke in class that makes everyone laugh.
The real trick to being happy in the future is to learn to be happy right now.
Every night before I go to sleep, while I’m lying there, I say to myself out loud the things that happened that day that I’m thankful for. For example, “Thank you for my Blunt umbrella, which kept me dry during the torrential downpour today. This is unquestionably the best umbrella I’ve ever owned.” I like to be grateful for small, silly things like this, as well as things that you have to work a little harder see the good in, like, “Thank you for that person I liked having the courage to tell me that they don’t have any feelings for me. I guess I’ll just have to keep that Blunt umbrella I was going to give them for their birthday.”
Finally, after saying the things I’m thankful for, I finish by asking for what I want. “I want to get excellence in my Geography exam,” “I want to ask that person I like if they want to hang out after school,” “I want to be a lumberjack.”
If you practise this now and get into the habit of doing this during NCEA - probably the toughest years of your life - you’ll be ready to take full advantage of the avalanche of good things that are coming your way after high school.
Saying this out loud as you lie there will feel a bit weird at first, but give it a go. You will be amazed at how many good things are happening to you every day, even on days where you feel like nothing good has happened. And you will also be amazed at how, by asking for what you want, how often you will get what you want. It’s like a superpower! Everything you see around you started off as an idea in someone’s head. That includes Blunt umbrellas.
Be someone who doesn’t spend their life waiting for things to get better. Things will definitely will get better after high school. But if you lie there every night for a minute and think about ‘What are the good things that happened today that I’m grateful for?’ you’ll find that the better life you’ve been searching for was within you all along.