High school is that time in our lives when we start to discover more about ourselves and the world around us. It can sometimes get overwhelming, and we may lose the motivation to persevere. With a pile of academic, social, and personal dilemmas, who wouldn’t get stressed out?
Even if your situation seems impossible, there are definitely ways to make it out alive. How do we know this? Well, not long ago, we got to talk to some of the alumni from Batch 2020—Martina Go, Kimi Llave, Annika Manalang, Gelo Nery, and Nathan Rosmarino. They may have not had an official graduation due to the pandemic, but the memories of their high school years are still fresh in their minds even as they start the next chapter of their lives. We asked them about the different trials and challenges they went through and what lessons they learned from those. Maybe after reading what they have to say, you’ll learn a thing or two on how to handle your high school experience.
Just like every phase in our lives, we all face challenges that we have to overcome. Whether you’ve just entered high school or you’ve been in it for a while, you’ve probably encountered an obstacle that seemed impossible to surpass at the time. The good news is you aren’t alone. The most recent alumni also had their fair share of hurdles throughout their entire high school experience.
Annika explained that staying persistent was a struggle that she personally experienced throughout her high school journey. She was so burnt out to the point that she was doing all of her requirements just because she had to.
“I don’t think it’s just one particular challenge, but more of the combination of things,” Gelo stated as he talked about the pressure of their College Entrance Tests, school requirements, and trying to find the motivation to finish everything
Kimi conveyed the same problems as Annika and Gelo. She said that the high expectations that were set really put pressure on her shoulders which made it even more difficult to handle and manage everything that was given to them, including her social life.
“I think I took on too many things like Council, Sinag, and everything. I was so burnt out the entire year,” Martina said as she expressed how overwhelmed she felt from all of the things that she had to accomplish.
Meanwhile, Nathan had a different dilemma. He stated, “the hardest challenge that I faced in high school was trying to get over my past mistakes.” He explained that he was always reminded of his past blunders by his surroundings, other people, and even himself.
Stories about challenges we face always come with a happy ending of how we overcome them. These alumni are a living proof that problems don’t last forever. In order to surpass the obstacles they faced, they had to work hard and balance their time wisely. Like Nathan said, “we all know that we can’t change what happened in the past. Instead of dwelling in that thought, I decided that the best we can do is to be motivated by our past in order to change our future.”
Despite all the curve balls that life throws at us, there’s definitely a more positive side in every experience. Although every person has a bad memory that he/she just wants to forget, we all definitely have a highlight that sticks with us and gives us comfort and joy during times of difficulty.
The alumni each gave a different highlight from their high school journey. “Now that I’m in college, when I look back, OLE’s (Overseas Learning Experience) are something that I’m thankful for,” Kimi said as she expressed her gratitude of having the privilege to be part of a one of a kind experience such as that.
Martina shared that her favorite memory was whenever they would finish a school play, and she would go out with the rest of her batch to celebrate. “My favorite memory would have to be hanging out with my friends and teachers,”
Nathan explained as he said that even though these memories didn’t necessarily take place in school, it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t attend school in ICS.
Our favorite memories of our high school journeys sometimes don’t happen in the ICS building itself, but we experience them with the people who are with us in school. Gelo said that one of the things he enjoyed the most was simply hanging out with his friends in their classrooms after classes. They would talk about how their days went, and it was just a time to unwind and relax after a long day of school.
“My best memory is just seeing everyone everyday,” Annika shared as she continued with saying how she misses the feeling of just being comfortable around her batchmates, especially now that she’s in college. Since she hasn’t physically met all of her new college classmates, she doesn’t feel as comfortable with them yet.
Looking back at certain memories can put you in the right perspective. Everything may seem uncertain and doubtful as of now, but we can always hold on to these precious memories in order to remind us that there is a light at the end of every tunnel.
When there are pros, there are also cons. In the same way, high school is filled with ups and downs. The alumni admitted that there were things they would have done differently if they had known better at the time.
“I wish earlier on, I acted more like myself. You act a certain way to get with certain people, right? To become friends with them, for them to like you,” Martina explained as she talked about how she regretted not opening up more until senior high school.
“When I was in Grade 11 and 12, I started acting more like myself, and I felt more comfortable with who I was.” Gelo also expressed the same problem. He realized that if he were to go back and change something about his experience in high school, he would have just been himself the entire time. He concluded, “it’s a waste of time trying to make up lies and excuses to avoid or get closer to somebody. If that’s not yourself and they don’t accept you for who you are, that’s kind of trash.”
There are also times when you might be too concerned with the wrong things. High school may seem like forever, but actually it’s a lot shorter than you think. You only go through it once, and that time is precious. Kimi said, “I invested a lot of time in the wrong friendships, and I guess that took up a lot from me.” She explained how she could have made better choices and be in healthier friendships. This type of situation could apply to anything, such as prioritizing academics to the point where it becomes toxic for your mental health.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with having regrets and making mistakes. It’s all part of the experience. As Nathan said, “nobody is going to go finish high school and go like, ‘no regrets’. Absolutely no one would.”
Facing problems that you don’t know how to fix may be exhausting, but trust us when we say that there is a bright side to it. Every mistake you make allows you to learn an important lesson, whether it be big or small. Maybe you messed up once, but that’s alright. As long as you learn from those slip-ups and improve yourself by applying what you’ve been taught, the entire experience would have been worth it.
A lot of us are often paranoid about our grades. The fear of failing and the pressure we experience because of it can sometimes heavily affect our mental health. When you feel down because of requirements, it may be helpful to simply remind yourself that life doesn’t revolve around school. “You feel like your whole life is just there, and you never realize how big the world is outside of your academics,” Martina told us when she talked about how we shouldn’t view school as if it’s our entire life. After all, high school is just a portion of your story. When you grow up, it’s not as if you’ll look back on your academic achievements as your most important legacy. She added to this by saying, “in the end, what’s left for you? It’s really the people you love and the memories you have.”
There are also times when high school can feel like an endless cycle. There would be classes, requirements, extracurricular activities, friendships, personal dilemmas, and more. The cycle seems to repeat over and over again, and sometimes you would have problems in all aspects of it . This usually results in being burned out or drained. It’s not surprising if a lot of you relate to this, because we do too. You have to remember though, that it isn’t endless. Eventually, some things end. For Annika, one of the most valuable lessons she learned was the fact that things come and go, so why torture yourself into thinking you’re never going to get through this? “This too shall pass. There are brighter days ahead, and so much to look forward to,” she remarked, mentioning how she and her batchmates finished their college entrance exams despite previously thinking that the day of them passing would never come.
All this leads to one main message, which is to look beyond the surface and enjoy your time in high school instead of constantly pressuring yourself because of expectations and standards that are set before you. All work and no play is unhealthy for everyone, and investing your time in your relationships with others is as important as investing your time in academics. “Knowing that I spent my time with people who actually mattered to me, I feel like that’s something that really spoke to me,” Kimi said as she expressed how rewarding it felt to have fun with the people she cared about during her ICS days.
Now that’s not to say that studies aren’t important. In fact, they do matter because they help all of us develop important skills such as critical thinking and understanding. After all, there is an obvious reason why we attend school in the first place. You just have to learn how to balance your priorities.
With all of the problems we go through, we definitely need someone to be there for us. Especially with the situation that we’re stuck in, it’s easier to get caught up in all of the stress and drama. We need people in our lives who will nurture us and help us grow as individuals. The alumni shared some insightful advice that we, as a high school body, can keep in mind.
“High school is where you meet your friends for life, so keep them close to you. They’re the ones that are gonna last,” Kimi stated as she explained how she didn’t regret prioritizing her social life despite all of the academic requirements that they had to accomplish. However, she also reminded us to spend our time on the right people because they’re the ones who will help you get through your studies as well.
With high school comes drama, and Martina said that staying away from all of that will save you a lot of time. “Get away from the drama because that’s so immature, and it’s not worth it. You’re wasting so much time, energy, and emotion on something that doesn’t last,” Martina said as she expressed how unimportant it is to engage with all of that. “Know what really matters. It’s so important now to be aware,” she added, saying how difficult it is to go online right now because of all the craziness that’s happening. Being the youth, the next generation, makes it even more important to be aware of everything that’s going on around us because the future of our society is in our hands.
“I understand that we go to school to learn and study but if you’re getting good grades at the expense of your own physical and mental health, just stop. Just stop because it’s not worth it,” Nathan explained as he expressed how our well-being is more important than our academic performance. He also said, “Just because you got the lowest score in the class, it doesn’t mean that you are the least valuable person there.” We should all know our worth as people and keep in mind that our grades do not define us.
Gelo shared the importance of setting your priorities straight. We have to find a balance that works for us and weigh the importance of the things around us. “We put so much focus on academics, but what about our rest and health?” Gelo added something similar to what Nathan said, saying that sacrificing your health just to get good grades is not balancing your priorities correctly.
“Students should learn how to do things that they’re afraid to do,” Annika stated as she explained how we should all try to overcome our fears to avoid having regrets. We should all learn how to sometimes turn our fears into excitement.
Hearing words of wisdom from others can really change your mindset. As high schoolers, we all have our fears and insecurities. However, stepping out of your comfort zone and standing up for yourself is essential when it comes to facing the real world. Like Annika said, “Knowing it isn’t the same as believing it.”
At this point in our lives, especially under the current circumstances of the world, it is important to talk with other people and express your emotions instead of keeping it all bottled up inside. It was definitely nerve wracking at first to approach the alumni for the interview, but at the end of the day, we realized how enlightening the conversation we had with them was. Getting advice from people who have completed their high school experience really gave us reassurance, and the best part of it is being able to share their words of wisdom with you.
Reading all of the advice that the alumni gave may be helpful, but if you don’t apply it and take it to heart, then what’s the point? Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and believe in yourself because everyone has their inner potential just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes, all you need is a little push.