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My Biggest Regrets From High School

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

A girl sits on the beach next to the ocean. An orange sunset is in the sky behind her. Her head is rested on her hands and she stares pensively into the ocean. She wears a sweatshirt and adidas pants.

I graduated from high school almost a year ago. Since the pandemic dominated the last semester of my high school career, I haven’t had the time to find closure in the last chapter of my childhood.

Graduation for me was a dismal experience on Zoom. The shutting of my MacBook after the school-wide video call finalized the closing of the last eighteen years of my life.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my high school experience. With my new college friends, we would often compare and contemplate each other’s high schools. Since I’ve returned to my hometown, I like to reminisce about the memories I had there and the regrets I’ve harbored. 

The pandemic tested the strength of friendships that I clung to in high school. Of course, you don’t need to stay friends with all of your high school friends after you graduate, but I can happily and confidently say that I retained 10% of the friendships I had in high school.

Many people didn’t reciprocate the effort to keep in touch with me, which I’m actually happy to remember. These friends were not necessarily “fake.” Just because a friend you once had isn’t still active in your life shouldn’t discount the great memories you made. I don’t feel regretful thinking back to the cafeteria conversations or AP Chemistry FaceTime calls. The connection was absolutely there at the time. These friends were there when I needed them at the time.

It’s completely natural to drift away, move on, and keep the highlights of your relationship. We all only have enough energy to maintain a certain number of friendships as we move into the next chapter of our lives. This solitude allowed me to invest in the people I wanted to keep in my life and focus on my own self-growth.

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It’s funny how everyone’s life paths are so different, especially after adding in the X-factor of the pandemic. For the last two decades, almost everyone we knew was attending school, going home to live with their families, and moving through the same major life events that we were: going to prom, getting our driver’s licenses, attending high school sporting events, applying for colleges, studying for grades.

From entering the workforce, to enrolling in trade school, to moving to Hollywood, to taking gap years, to volunteering at a beekeeping farm in Hawaii, to starting viral TikTok accounts, my high school graduating class is exploring a variety of opportunities that I can only follow through social media. 

Now that I’m in college, I’ve also realized how many activities I did just to put on my college application. I grew up thinking that things I did with my time must result in productivity, whether that be a new line of my resume or a side hustle. I wanted to be good at everything I did.

I wish I developed hobbies in high school — things I did not need to monetize or be productive while doing. Every interest I had in high school seemed to land on my extracurricular activities sheet with a string of awards and achievements.

After graduating, I realized that I enjoyed none of these activities. I was chasing the high of winning. Once I placed value on activities dependent on whether I was excelling, the original joy I found in these activities was gone.

Now, I try to be intentional in doing things I enjoy for the fun of it. I try to explore different community groups and interests that I may not be the best at. I’ve explored painting, crocheting, yoga, and baking. I fell in love with journaling, taking long walks with podcasts, and vlogging.

These hobbies allow me to enjoy life as it is and take every moment slowly. It’s taken me until now to realize that it’s impossible to achieve productivity at every moment of every day.

I try to live by the motto: To see the world and to feel. I want to allow myself to feel every emotion, even if it is considered a negative emotion like sadness, heartbreak, sorrow.

All of those things are part of this human experience. Graduating from high school gave me a deeper perspective in appreciating life. 

I cared too much about specific test scores in high school. I lost too many nights of sleep to anxiety about the future. I turned down too many plans for the sake of getting one more practice test in. I paid too much attention to what other people were doing. 

From the time I was a high school freshman, I yearned to get out of my hometown and meet different people. I dreamed of life in college, a life more exciting, stimulating, and dramatic. I set my eyes on starting my life once college started, once I graduated high school, once I could get out of this town.

Now I know: there is no point in waiting to live your life.

Our lives go by so fast. None of us knows how long we have left. Every hour we use is one we never get back.

I wish I appreciated the time that I had left. I wish I spent more time being social rather than being so hard on myself for academics. I wish I said “yes” more.

After this past year, I think we deserve to enjoy life. If you have the opportunity to enjoy something and if someone texts you about going out and spending time with people, take it. The other stuff can wait. What matters the most is the time spent, the memories made, and the friends you love.

The Ultimate College Application Timeline

Author: Lauren Liu

Lauren is a freshman at Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Psychology with a minor in Computer Science from Princeton, NJ. When not creating content for Niche, she can be found scouring Yelp for new restaurants to try, snowboarding atop snowy peaks in Vermont, or curled up editing vlogs for her personal YouTube channel, Lauren Liu.