How Did You Make It Through High School?

How did you make it through high school? That’s the question the folks behind Rookie, a website for teenage girls, asked a bunch of celebrities. Not the flashy, pretty, Hollywood A-List celebrities, but the cool quirky ones who just seem like the types to have lurked in the margins as teenagers. This post featuring their answers to that question is great reading.

Joss Whedon gives four rules for surviving high school, including this one:

We all want to be accepted. If possible, liked. Loved. But nobody ever got to be popular by desperately wanting to be. (Well, maybe Madonna.) Whether you crave attention or anonymity, you’ll be thwarted if you focus on those goals. I was actually gunning for a bit of both, but I only succeeded, in the end, because I knew I had the right to be myself. The judgments of others, however painful, would always be external. I was fiercely calculated about establishing myself as someone not to be trodden on (I’d had plenty of that from my brothers, thank you), but it really only worked because I knew, as much as a tiny-15-year old can, who I was. I was a short, annoying, existential, girl-repelling mess—but I KNEW that. I honored that. I defended that. And as intimidated as I super-incredibly was in that alien environ, I never lost that.


Zooey Deschanel tells about the day she realized her science teacher actually seemed to be on her wavelength:

For me, this moment mapped a strange intersection of emotions: whereas I now knew I wasn’t alone, the people I wanted to connect with, my peers, seemed even farther away. I guess it was then that I realized I wasn’t required to LOVE high school, like the movies demanded; I didn’t have to want to go to prom and homecoming or be the center of the social world—I just had to make high school a place where I could get better at the things I wanted to do. And that’s exactly what I did.

Dan Savage didn’t feel comfortable until he transferred to a new, bully-free school:


Sometimes the problem isn’t who you are, despite what you’re being told by everyone around you, but where you are. And sometimes the solution can be as simple as finding a new place, a better place, the kind of place where a kid like you can thrive.

Winnie Holzman figured out that what seemed like an unshakeable reality in school wasn’t as real as she thought:

In high school, we become pretty convinced that we know what reality is: We know who looks down on us, who is above us, exactly who our friends and our enemies are. We know what’s true, and what isn’t, and there’s no room for doubt. Sadly, this condition will likely continue throughout the rest of our lives, unless we actively work to combat it. Which I recommend you do.


Alia Shawkat anticipated her future perspective by remembering:

The best thing to do—because, let’s face it, you have to be there—is to soak in the torture and try to remember everything. I suggest writing every day about your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your crushes. Because one day soon, you’ll see the absurdity of what you thought was important, and that perspective will teach you something.

Lesley Arfin embraced her weirdness:

You’re allowed to care about stuff. That’s the first thing. Even if you think it’s stupid or weird, like polka music or “being obsessed with mimes.” One day you will look back not at all the things that made you cool enough to fit in, but the things that didn’t. And you will love them.


There’s a lot more. Much of it is funny, caustic, occasionally tasteless, and extremely truthful. As a parent, this advice is worth reading, digesting, and then regurgitating as needed later in your kid’s life. Kind of like what mommy birds do, but in a metaphorical sense.

What about you? What’s your best advice for getting through school?

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Mike Wise

posted September 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I was brutally mistreated and bullied when I was in school. As someone who was autistic, there was very little that I could do to NOT be perceived as weird by the masses. My best advice? No matter who you are there are going to be some folks who’ll like you. Don’t question it, don’t be afraid of it. Enjoy those friendships and focus all of your attention on those.

Looking back, you’ll be thankful for those friends. You may even find that some of the people that were jerks to you back then will apologize for their behavior.

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