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How wrong I was about this idea of confident, smart, high schoolers who always knew what they were doing

When I was little, I would look up at my high school neighbors in awe and respect. I wondered about the inside of "the school with the blue track," as my parents called it, since I could never remember the name. It was a place of learning, of maturity and confidence. My preschool self listened intently as my babysitters told stories of eating lunch in the hallways, couches in the senior commons, and studying for finals. Seeing piles of binders and brightly colored notes, I was positive high schoolers had it all figured out.UPLOADED BY: HOLLEY, CLAIRE - SHALLENBERGER, Lake Oswego Review - Education Lakeridge sophomore Sara Shallenberger shares her thoughts on the recent LO Speaks event Pacer Notes: The importance of sharing stories

When I was younger, even people just a year older seemed like they had some sort of magic elixir of knowledge that I didn't. In first grade, I was convinced that the second graders somehow were more confident and smart just by experiencing a few more months on Earth than I had. In middle school, I mistakenly believed that I would experience some sort of revelation between sixth grade and high school that would somehow transform me from an inexperienced, insecure fifth grader to the high schooler that I always admired. I wondered how I could become those confident babysitters that I always admired when I was little who studied for finals with gorgeous colored notes and said things like "let me get my bag from my car."

How wrong I was about this idea of confident, smart, high schoolers who always knew what they were doing. I'm in high school now, and I have a lot of the things that my role models when I was younger had. I'm a babysitter now — that person in high school that seemed to have everything figured out. I have a car and leave things in it, and then say "let me get that from my car." I study for finals (albeit not very far in advance) and highlight my notes in bright colors. But that doesn't mean I'm confident. It doesn't mean I'm smart, and it definitely doesn't mean I have everything figured out.

But what I've come to realize is that my feelings have never really changed. I didn't know what I was doing then, and I still don't have a clue. They say that change is the only constant in life, but I would argue that uncertainty is another. At any stage in our life — whether it be high school, adulthood or even old age — we're bound to feel anxious about where we've been, where we are, and where we're going.

I saw my theory in action when I toured Pomona College in California. Hundreds of high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors with their parents sat in the large hall as the college's dean spoke to the prospective students. "How many students know what you want to do when you grow up?" he asked. Only a couple raised their hands. "Now how many of the adults know what to do when they grow up?" he continued. It should have been a silly question. All of the adults were grown up. They had careers, families, forty or so years to have figured out this crazy thing called life. But none of them raised their hands. They just chuckled, amused at the fact that one could even think of "knowing what you want to do."

I've come to accept the fact that I'll never really be sure how to properly study for finals, balance activities or file taxes. Next year is my junior year of high school. Nine months of AP classes, standardized testing and SATs. But instead of worrying about whether I'm prepared to tackle this challenging stage of my life, I'm going to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride — because I'm sure I'm not the only one making it up as I go.

Lakeridge High School sophomore Sara Shallenberger is one of two Pacer Notes columnists. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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