“My stomach is full of butterflies!”
“I feel like I could puke!”
“Eeekkk, I’m so nervous!!”
“This is scary!”

Those were just a few of the statements I heard this morning on the 8-minute drive to freshman orientation as I drove four nervously excited girls to our high school.

The same high school I spent four years of my life at. It’s all still so surreal.

I know their concerns are valid. Making the transition from middle school to high school is a defining period in a child’s life. I remember those years vividly.

There are a few things I need my girls to know as they embark on this adventure. (Only one of the four is my actual daughter, but I consider all her friends—who are constantly at our house—my own.)

1. First things first (cue all the eye rolls): you’re going to high school to LEARN.

This is it, girls. You have four years left of your childhood to figure this whole thing out, so pay attention in class. For real. There’s more to it than just memorizing the facts and reciting them back on tests.

You’re learning valuable skills about problem-solving, time management, how to work as a team, making good choices, having respect for authority, and so much more. These four years will prepare you academically and mentally for college or the career path you choose. Utilize this time wisely. Ask questions, always give more than you’re asked, and FOLLOW THE RULES. Capeesh?

2. Choose your friends wisely.

The posse you run with will affect your attitude. If you surround yourself with negative people, I can assure you, you’ll start thinking negatively yourself. Don’t limit yourself to one “clique.” Be friends with everyone, make a U—not a circle. The U has room for everyone, circles close people out. And P.S., if your posse wants you to break rules and put yourself in compromising situations, they ain’t yo posse. Find your people.

RELATED: Dear Daughter, The Truth is Not Everyone is Going to Like You (and That’s OK)

3. Have some school spirit. No, have ALL the school spirit.

This is YOUR high school, you (hopefully) only will have one. Take pride in it. Wear your colors, cheer the loudest at pep rallies, show up and support every single team—even if it’s the Chess Club or the Ping Pong Team. Get involved in extracurricular activitiesa club or two or three. Run for student government—that’s your best chance at having a say in what happens in your school. Use your voice to make things better. Always and everywhere.

4. Take at least one class that’s out of your comfort zone.

You can do it. I promise. Maybe writing isn’t your thing, so take journalism. Maybe little kids intimidate you, so take child development. Maybe you’re worried you won’t be able to handle honors classes—GO FOR IT. Your teachers are there for the sole purpose of helping you succeed in academics. Learn to ask for help when you need it, talk to your counselors. Trying new things is a big part of adulthood, don’t confine yourself to a small comfort zone. Greatness doesn’t come from small places.

5. Learn to give yourself grace.

Perfection is not possible, and it’s not expected. You are going to make mistakes, you’re going to fail an exam or not make the team. None of these things will affect the happiness of your life in the end, I can promise you. True, it could change your path, but it won’t ruin your life. Trust me. I mean it’s possible if I had made the high school basketball team I would have been in the WNBA, but if I had done that, I likely wouldn’t have you, and you’re priceless.

6. This one is super important: CHECK YOUR DRAMA AT THE DOOR.

Don’t bring it home and for darn sure don’t take it to school with you. As I sit back and think about all the drama I lived through in high school, I can say without a doubt, none of it was worth it. Not one minute. I can still vividly recall having massive blowouts with my close friends throughout high school. Blowouts that put friendships on hold for long periods of time. None of it was worth it. Learn from my mistakes, please.

7. When you find that one friend who always, no matter what, has your back despite whatever silly disagreements you are experiencing with others, love her fiercely.

Have her back the same way she has yours. You’ll look back and remember the arguments with others, but I want you to remember the good times with your one person instead. Trust me. I’m lucky I had one, and she’s still one of my favorite people decades later, long after graduation.

RELATED: Dear Daughters, You Have to Show Up for Your Friends

8. This might not need to be said (especially to my own daughter because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) but take the dang picture!.

When it’s all said and done, pictures and memories are all that will remain of your high school experience. I know most of you have braces and that’s a memory you don’t want to keep, but one day you’ll look at the pictures, and you won’t even see the braces. Just trust me on this one.

9. Don’t put stock in what you look like on the outsidethat changes with the seasons, but your heart and personality are constant.

Fashion and makeup trends will change all the time, don’t waste time trying to keep up. Always lead with a smile and a heart for others, and you’ll get far in life. Time is a thief—the more you waste on worrying over the little things, the less you have to focus on the big stuff. I can promise you no one will remember if you had name-brand tennis shoes or the most trendy outfit.

10. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.

I know it’s cliché and all the moms say it (quit rolling your eyes!) but it’s 100 percent true. When a situation arises or something happens, stop and remember the Rule of 5. Will it matter in 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years? Heck, most of your issues won’t even matter 5 hours after you have dealt with them. Do not let worry and anxiety over small things consume you. Remember what matters most in life: how you treat people and how you treat yourself. Everyone deserves love and grace.

Now go make good decisions and enjoy the ever-living crap out of your high school years. You only get one shot. The only expectation I have for you is that you make it to the end. Get that diploma, and then we can tackle the next phase of life—together, just like everything else we do.

And always remember WHO you belong to.

Mom (everyone’s mom)

Originally published on the author’s page 

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Meredith Bleakley

Meredith Bleakley writes as Small Town Tall Girl.  A wife and mom of three—a toddler, a teen and one in between, she has a background in politics and campaigns. While primarily a SAHM, she is active in her beloved small town of Crystal River, Florida. 

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