No matter where we are as adults, we all have been through one experience: high school. Most of us remember those fours years walking around, hoping to be noticed but scared to be noticed. We balanced the joys of being a teenager while worrying, about adulthood. It also doesn’t help that every adult asked us about life post-high school; college, career, marriage, kids, etc. It’s no wonder high school years are terrifying.
Nowadays being a teenager is a bit more terrifying. Every fear, mistake, heartbreak is on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter before you shed your first tear.
This is why I enjoy speaking to high school students. I want them to know, that their voice matters, their fears are legit, and this is just a snapshot of their life, and they will make it. Speaking to students teaches me new things about my public speaking skills. You have to up your enthusiasm and engage with them by literally sitting next to them.
Now, I have avoided speaking at my old high school like the plague. I was not a fan of my hometown. I thought it was too small for me, too simple for me; I wanted to leave Gilroy, California since I was a kid. I know my desire to leave was due to a combination of a lot of things. Most of my friend’s dreams were limited to our town limits, and my high school didn’t do a whole lot for the students that were failing so; therefore, most students that looked like me got left behind, and lastly, the concept of average was widely accepted. If you look at my high school at greatschools.com, you will notice one word a lot; average. It is ranked 3 out of 5 stars. The test scores and college readiness is average. The vibe of the whole school and town is just aiming for what you can get and not look beyond the horizon.
However, as I got older I realized that if one is embarrassed by their hometown, they look insecure and weak. Also, more and more people were surprised that I grew up in the country, that some of my high school friends ended up in gangs, and that I once was a football team groupie.
So this year, I decided why not speak at my old high school. That for better or worse my high school and my hometown is a part of me. So I reached out the College and Career Center, my old stomping ground, to see if they accepted speakers. They got back to me, and we planned a date.
I was ecstatic. I entered my old high school and saw how it changed and how it still looked the same. The students were even more engaged compared to other students I spoke to. I guess it was because I came from their town. They had so many questions, and of course, there were the ones who chatted throughout the presentation, (which is fine, you just have to work around that). I had a small group of students stay during their break to chat with me some more. I left my presentations feeling proud and at peace.
Sometimes it takes until in your 30’s to make peace with issues from your childhood.