This isn’t how it was supposed to be. 

I’ve pictured this moment, your first day of high school, since the instant I knew you existed. But the reality of this moment is far different than anything I had ever imagined — just like the past five months have been for you.

None of this is how it was supposed to be.

The end of your 8th grade year was supposed to be filled with class trips, semi-formal dances, graduation parties, and travel sports. Your final summer before high school was supposed to be filled with lots of time with friends and more freedom than you were accustomed to having as a middle schooler.

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Instead, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the world moves more slowly now. 

Almost everything is different.

You will begin your high school experience attending school in person just two days each week, with only half of your peers in attendance. There will be no changing for gym class, no getting a tour of the school, no orientation, no traveling to freshman sporting games with your teammates on a bus, no signing up for extracurricular activities, no working out in the high school gym after school, no taking the late bus home, and no enjoying lunch with your friends in the cafeteria. 

There is no way to sugar coat this new reality. 

This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

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Although it is far from ideal and is not at all what any of us have imagined for the past 14 years, it is still a monumental day for you.

This day marks the first chapter in your new life, a life that will draw you further and further away from the little boy version of yourself and closer and closer to the young man you are becoming. 

Soak it all in every chance you get.

As you walk through the doors of the high school for the first time, look around and take it all in. This is where you will spend the next four years of your life. When you leave this building in 2024, you will be an adult, old enough to vote in elections, old enough to serve your country, and ready to embark on your adult life. You will want to remember what it felt like walking through these doors.

As you sit in your new classes for the first time, look around and take it all in. Some of these people around you are complete strangers but may become your closest lifelong friends. These are the classrooms in which you and those friends will make memories that will carry on through your life. These are the spaces in which you will start to realize who you want to be as an adult.

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As you spend your “remote school days” at home, look around and take it all in. Someday you will look back on these crazy days with fondness. We won’t always be able to sit together at the kitchen island as we sip our coffee and work remotely, pausing every so often to share something funny or interesting about what we are doing. We won’t always get to share so much time together. 

As you transition into the role of freshman, look around and take it all in. Despite the challenges facing us today, this is still an exciting time in your life.

Enjoy it — even the challenging and frustrating parts for those are the parts that will define and shape you the most. 

So, while this isn’t how it was supposed to be, soak it all in every chance you get. 

This is high school. This is the start of your life’s next chapter. Go make it a great one!

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Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.

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