It’s that time of year again. Grab your books and school supplies and brace yourself for the beginning of a new school year – new teachers, new classrooms, and new worries. Will “Isabella,” the girl you always sat with at lunch last year, still sit with you this year? Will your teachers like you? Will you have trouble keeping old friends or making new friends? Are you even going to have a friend this year? These are the questions many girls ask themselves and obsess over at the beginning of September, kind of like a “hell week” for teenage girls. Believe it or not, it’s not just you that’s worried – it’s everyone.
A new school year is about a fresh start. You start with a clean slate – no one knows who you are now (versus last year) or who you are (if you’re at a new school). It’s all about first impressions. Imagine the amount of stress that comes with that! Everything has to be perfect on the first day. You have to make sure that you’re wearing the proper clothes and acting in the coolest way – but not in the way where it looks like you’re trying too hard. This was me not too long ago – about three weeks ago to be exact. I remember changing my outfit three times in a row (maybe even more) because I was so afraid that I did not look cool enough or that what I was wearing was “so last year.” I obsessed over what people would think of it.
Along with a new school year, there is also plenty of room for changes in friendships. If you haven’t talked to someone in a few months, there is the fear of “did we grow apart?” Or, if there is a new kid in the school, there’s the worry of being replaced. There’s even the fear of not having any friends in the upcoming year and of whether people will still like you. I’ve been through positive and negative experiences related to all of these questions. Some years, I shrug it off because it turns out there was nothing to worry about. Other years, I secretly cry in disappointment in a bathroom stall.
But guess what? It’s taken me over a decade to figure this out- in reality, no one is looking at you! They’re all thinking the exact same thing as you. They too are worried about how they look or if they’re saying the right thing. It may not look like it – but every single one of those girls in the hallway is at least a little worried. You can rest assured because those girls are focusing on themselves, not on you. To be honest, nobody is looking at you (except maybe the teachers or the boy who has a crush on you). Nearly all of the girls have the same worries as you – does “Maria’ still like me?” “Is my pimple noticeable?” They may be smiling and appear like they’re effortlessly perfect, but on the inside, they’re freaking out, just like you. I’ve figured out the secret to “looking amazing in five minutes”- it takes time – no one looks like the way they do in five minutes. They spend just as much time in the morning prepping for the first day of school as you do.
There is a formula to surviving the first day (and subsequent ones). It’s OK to worry a little, that’s perfectly normal, but don’t freak out because now you know the truth. I wish I knew this years ago because it would have saved me hours of sleep, if I hadn’t gotten up early to dress up and hadn’t spent all night worrying. Just be yourself. I’m serious. I know it’s something GLI teaches and that your parents say to you all the time but believe me, it works. Be open to the fact that you may not be friends with your best friend this year. And be open to new friends. Hopefully, once school rolls around again next year, the fears you had this year will be replaced with this formula.