Notes to my 12-year-old self

by Sam Adams

Just as I’ve gotten the hang of Harvard-Westlake six years later, it’s over. Great. I’m equal parts nostalgic about the time I’ve spent here and anxious about what the next step holds for me. Reminds me of myself six years ago, barreling toward graduation from my safe, tiny elementary school and embarking on the massively intimidating journey that is Harvard-Westlake. Feeling very much in communion with this preteen bundle of hormones, I thought I would share a few of the things I wish I could tell myself back then:

-Congratulations! You’re done with the middle school application process. Don’t sweat the fact you got waitlisted by Crossroads, you never really wanted to go there anyway—you’re far too much of a conformist. Take a breather. You won’t have to start playing for keeps in school for a couple years.

-Real life is the same as high school, which is the same as elementary school. Once you break free of the shackles of your current weekday penitentiary, everything will be completely different, right? Wrong. Social interactions don’t change. The insecurities and sexual tension (maybe it goes by another name in sixth grade, but you know what I mean) that dictates the way most of us interact don’t go away, so learn to love them.

-You will kiss a girl. Don’t worry your 12-year-old self about it.

-Yes, Harvard-Westlake is as hard as they say it is. Yes, you’ll probably go just a little bit crazy as a result of it. No, it’s not a perfect place. But would you do it all over again? In an instant.

-Don’t be afraid to go into Algebra I instead of Pre-Algebra in seventh grade. There will always be people much, much smarter than you in your math classes, but ultimately you’ll be glad that you chose to take the harder way.

-Apologize to Danny Fujinaka for getting his shoe caught in a basketball hoop in fourth grade. If you don’t, you’ll still feel bad about it almost a decade later.

-Never take for granted the fact that you get to see all of your friends basically every day. Spend as little time in Silent Study as possible, no matter how advantageous you tell parents it is when giving tours.

-Still can’t decide whether or not you want to play flag football next year? Do it. That’s not to say you’ll be any good (you won’t), or that your scrawny delusion that you can play contact sports will ever go away (it won’t). Over the next couple of years as you graduate into tackle football and lacrosse, you’ll receive more than your fair share of bruises and sprains and ego-demolishing body slams, but getting up one more time than you fall down is a sign of character. Einstein didn’t know what he was saying when he defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

-Latin is a dead language. You only go to church once a month—you probably aren’t going to become Pope. Save yourself two years and just take Spanish.

-As you go through high school, make grades a priority but not the only priority. Go to parties. Spend time doing nothing with friends. Don’t stress too much about blowing it on a test every now and then; it all comes out in the wash.

-It’ll take you a few years before you figure yourself out. Be patient. You’ll join clubs and quit them. You’ll try out personalities and abandon them. Do it until you find what fits you. You will, eventually.

And yes, Harvard-Westlake is a big and scary place to a 12-year-old. But the funny thing about big and scary places is they force you to become big and fearless to match them. Which is reassuring for the new next step. Hindsight is 20/20, but I’m glad I didn’t know any of the above pearls of wisdom back then. I wouldn’t trade the surprises that came along the way for anything. Those exhilarating moments that make our pulse skyrocket and our breath freeze, both for good and bad, are the ones that make us who we are.

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