What It’s Like Currently Being a Student in America

I’ve grown up in a post-Columbine world. The talk of school shootings is not something new to me, I’ve been taught how to prepare for one my whole life. I’ve spent hours siting in dark classrooms, huddled in the corner with my classmates praying it’s only a drill. As of February, there have been a total of 18 school shootings in 2018. The latest, taking place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people.

As a current student, this terrifies me. Many days I wake up wondering if I could be next. I’ve made action plans for every classroom I go to, in case I find myself in an active shooter situation. When I see students walking with their hands in a hoodie, I wonder if they’re concealing a gun. When I hear screaming in the hallway, I immediately think “where should I hide?” The worst part about all of this is that it is a preventable issue, yet our government just won’t do anything to prevent it.

I don’t want to be the next victim of a school shooting. I don’t want to see my classmates be victims of a school shooting. I don’t want to see anymore children die in school a shooting. We’re required by law to go to school from the time we turn five until we graduate from high school, and yet we are not safe there. I may now be in college, and have made the decision to be in school, but I still deserve to be safe. No students will be safe until we have gun control, and no students will be safe until our government stops taking money from the NRA.

It is not too soon, now is the time to talk about this. April 20th, 1999 was the time to talk about gun control, December 14th, 2012 was the time to talk about gun control, February 14th, 2018 was the time to talk about gun control, and yet we didn’t. We’ve become so numb as a nation that we get over mass tragedy is a few weeks. We don’t even remember the details of all the recent shootings, because there have been so many. The victims of these horrific acts of violence deserve to be remembered. They deserve justice, and that can only come when we, as a nation, make sure this never happens again. People my age and younger, like Emma Gonzalez, are having to step up and lead a movement. Children, and people who are barely adults, should not have to constantly tell grown-ups that our lives are worth more than your right to own an automatic weapon.

 

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Living in the Moment

Living in the moment is something I often have trouble with.

Life these past five years has not gone as I planned by any means. I feel like I’m always looking to the future when “I feel better” or “feel happier” thinking life will better then. Instead of trying to enjoy this chapter in my life, I’m always looking ahead.

I started college this summer at my local community college, and it’s been hard to enjoy it. I can’t help but think about how I “should have” graduated high school and “should have” gone to a four year university right away. Those things just aren’t going to happen for me, and I know I need to get over it. I’m guilty of judging people who’ve gone to community college in the past. Always assuming they screwed around in high school and so they couldn’t go anywhere else. Now looking back I realize how prejudiced and rude that was, but I still push those stereotypes on myself.

I’m grateful that my health is in a place that let’s me be able to start college full time in the fall. I should enjoy this time I have feeling well, since I never know when I’ll flare again. Honestly I’m afraid of my next flare. As the fall school year becomes closer and closer, I’m scared I’ll flare right when classes start. I really want to go to school full time this year, and I want to be successful. Instead of enjoying feeling well, I’m often worried and thinking about all of that what-ifs.

Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and remind myself of all the wonderful things in my life. Sure, there’s gapping holes that I’ve desperately wanted to fill for years, but I have so many amazing things in my life going on too. Even in these times when I’m feeling better I can’t help but feel the exhaustion of my past. I’m only seventeen, but living seventeen more years sounds horrendous. My life is supposed to be “just beginning,” but it already feels so long.

I want to live in the moment.  I want to enjoy the now.

It’s just a lot harder than I expected it to be.

 

Being on Your Own Timeline

In the U.S. and especially in the suburbs there’s a pattern to life that your assumed to follow.

Graduate high school, go straight away to a University, graduate college in four years, get your first job, get married, have kids, etc.

I was raised to believe this is the only way to be successful in life, but after having my life interrupted by chronic illness and having to pave a different path for myself I’ve learned just how wrong that is. Everyone does things at their own pace; some people aren’t mature enough to go to college straight out of high school or can’t financially make ends meet so they have to work before going to school. For other people college just isn’t the right choice for them, or they choose to go back to school later in life.

While I am definitely pro-education and believe, given the opportunity, you should obtain as much education as possible, I can see that there are situations that can make that difficult or near impossible. You don’t have to have life figured out at 22, or even your own life figured out.

While there’s always going to be a lot of external pressure to follow a certain timeline, only you can know what’s best for yourself. Right now it’s best for me to be out of high school while I pursue my GED and get my health on track, to other people the decisions I’ve made may not be what they think is right, but I don’t believe you can speak to experiences you haven’t had.

Every time I meet someone new there’s always a million questions about school and extra curricular’s. I don’t feel the need to tell my sob story to everyone I meet so I often tell them the town I live in and let them make their own assumptions. Occasionally I’ll tell people the things I used to do when I was in school without mentioning I don’t go there anymore, but that’s normally when I’m uncomfortable with all the questions and feel like I’m being judged.

It’s crazy how narrow minded people can be. I try to put myself in other peoples shoes and examine situations from all aspects the best that I can. There isn’t one correct way to live life and I think this plan we’ve created as a society and seem to believe everyone should follow to a T can be really detrimental. You’re not a failure if your life doesn’t look like the majority of your peers, friends, or family members. You also don’t have to have the same dreams and goals as everyone around you.

Be yourself and do things on your own timeline!

Alyssa

Dear High School,

2016 is coming to a close, so I thought I would write a letter to “high school” as some sort of closure to my high school experience . I wrote about why I dropped out of school here.

 

Dear High School,

I wanted so much more from you. I wanted to learn, and make friends, and have picture perfect memories. I thought junior year would be “my year.” I thought I would finally get the high school experience I always dreamed of, but now I know that will never happen.

I will never wear a prom dress, or a graduation cap. I will never walk across a stage to accept a diploma, and I will never have a year book to look back on. I’m not angry, just incredibly disappointed. I never thought I would drop out – I never thought I would have to.

It’s painful to watch the people I once knew getting everything I ever wanted. I try not to envy them, but who am I kidding, I want their lives more than I could ever voice. This life I’m living isn’t ideal, but it’s mine. I didn’t want these chapters in my story, and I wish I could omit them so bad.

They tell me “college is better than high school anyway,” but I’m not so sure my life will be different when I make it to college. I may very well have the same issues a year or two years from now that I have today. How can things change if I never get better?

I don’t cry. I pinch my leg to hold back tears and pretend everything is fine, but every time someone asks “what grade are you in?” or “how’s high school going?” it stings even deeper. I’m sad far more often than I ever let people know, but I’m tired of being a downer. I’m tired of saying I’m in pain, and I’m tired of complaining. Although most of the time all I can do is complain, because nothing else helps.

I feel cheated. Cheated from a quality education and cheated of a positive high school experience. Teachers and administrators could have tried harder; they could have helped more. I pushed myself through four and half years of hell, only to walk way in November. I feel like it was all for nothing, and a huge waste of my time. I did it all by myself, and wish I could have gotten help when I begged my school to give me more.

I have hope through God, and through that hope I believe there are better days ahead. The only thing I can do now is move on and move forward. Being bitter, or sad isn’t going to help my situation, but at times it’s all I can do. I want to let go, and be happy, but it’s complicated.

Hopes for a Bigger & Brighter Future,

Alyssa

High School Dropout

I am a high school drop out. Saying or rather typing those words still stings deeply. This is not something I ever imagined being a part of my narrative, but here I am, 17 and no longer going to school.

I dropped out in November of this year after struggling for the past five years with crippling chronic illness. I have been formally diagnosed with abdominal migraines, and chronic migraines, but I am still trying to get answers about other health problems I might have, which include PCOS and hyper mobility syndrome.

I worked incredibly hard these past five years to make decent grades and complete all my work. I attended school less than 50% of the time most years, and was put into a “homebound” status by my school in 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. When I was on homebound I had a teacher come to my house to give me my work, and teach what they could. Unfortunately they couldn’t give me the help I needed, and it is incredibly hard to do AP high school classes with little to no instruction.

As far as my plans for future education, I plan on getting my GED in the winter/spring of 2017, and then in the fall of 2017 starting some college courses at my local community college. There’s so many holes in my education, this isn’t going to be easy, but I don’t really have any other options. In the short time I’ve been out of school I’ve had everyone I know offer their opinion , that I didn’t ask for. “You should really try online high school”, “There’s so many other options!” None of these things are helpful to me, and online high school isn’t going to work for my situation. I am going to take some online classes to try and “get educated” before I go to college, but I’m not pursuing a high school diploma.

There are very few people who will be able to understand what I’ve been going through, but I know that I’m not the only person to ever drop out of high school. My parents tell me this will be the “miraculous part of my story,” but I’m not so sure. What I do know is I have to pick myself up off the pavement and continue on.

– Alyssa