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Posts Tagged ‘High School’

graduate2

Malia Obama, oldest daughter of President Barack Obama, is in her senior year of high school, and she has been accepted to attend Harvard University as her college of choice. However, before the first daughter attends her very first college class, she will be taking a year off—otherwise known as a “gap year.”

Big in Europe and Australia, and just now catching on in the US, a gap year is when students decide to delay their entry to college to either catch their breath after high school, or to gather some life or work experiences before embarking on their college career.

For Malia, the decision to take a gap year makes sense. Her father is in his last year of presidency, and there will be a lot of changes as the family adjusts to life after the White House. So, it doesn’t really seem like a big surprise that she isn’t jumping right into college after she graduates from high school.

For me, however, a gap year was not my parents’ favorite decision that I made. I wanted to move out with my boyfriend and begin working full-time right away. They wanted me to go away to college and pursue the classes I need toward the writing or teaching career I had often talked about.

In the end, I won out. I moved out the day after high school, increased my hours at work, and gained some real life experience. A year later, and I still wasn’t going to college. More than that, we were broke, and had accidentally started a family. Whoops.

My education took an alternative turn from the traditional route of college. I was lucky in that my experiences still led me to where I wanted to be in life. But because of the hardships I also faced from this life decision, I don’t heartily recommend taking a gap year.

Finally, my daughter—the one we started our family with—is graduating from high school this year. I’m proud to say that she’s not taking a gap year, as she will be starting classes at Sonoma State University in the fall.

With all that said, I still recognize that there are many students who are disciplined enough to take a year off after high school, and still sign up for college courses a year later. If that is your choice (or your child’s choice), here are 10 things you can do in that break between high school and college.

1. Travel
Trust me when I say this, there will never be a more perfect time for you to journey someplace new and live out of a suitcase. Later on, you will have a career, a family, obligations, responsibilities…. There will be so many things that will chain you where you are, making it difficult to just get up and go. Take a road trip to a new state. Or grab your passport and get on a plane. Peruse Groupon or Travelocity for deals, or split the tab with a few good friends.

2. Get a job….and save!
Work experience is worth its weight in gold. Future employers want to know about your past jobs, and they want to know you’ll be a good employee. This is a great time to pad your resume with a few small-time jobs, and even work your way up the ladder. Plus, a portion of that money can go toward next year’s college tuition, saving you money in the long run.

3. Join the Peace Corps
This is an opportunity for you to do something great for mankind, and to also see the world in the least expensive way possible. There is an application process and a few requirements involved, but if you’re approved, you will find yourself in a new part of the world, making new friends, and aiding others who are relying on your help.

4. Cross a few things off your bucket list
I know you have one. Perhaps it’s seeing the Grand Canyon. Maybe it’s running a marathon. Whatever it is, this is a great time for you to create a few memories, do all the things you’ve always wanted to do, and give you a few new stories you’ll tell your grandkids one day.

5. Hike the PCT.
You know, like Cheryl Strayed did (and told about in her memoir, “Wild”). Or just do a week-long backpacking trip like my friend, Inga Aksamit, did (and told about in her own memoir, “Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail“).  Make sure you have a pair of sturdy shoes!

6. Learn something new
Take a sail-boating class. Learn how to bone a fish. Discover how tie every knot there is. Learn how to sew your own outfit, or how to knit a scarf. Practice putting up a tent on your own, and then how to tear it down. Take a dance class, a yoga class, a jujitsu class, or a singing class. Learn how to ride a horse. Learn how to do a back flip. Learn to speak a new language. Take all the fun classes you can now. The possibilities are endless.

7. Write a book
You know you have one in you. Might as well use this time to jot it down. Who knows? It could become the next bestseller.

8. Learn some life skills
You know good ol’ Mom and Dad? They actually have a few tricks up their sleeve. They can balance a checkbook in the blink of an eye. They can whip up a meal for five in 30 minutes. They can change the oil on the car, or switch out the windshield wipers. They can budget their finances with a few bucks leftover. Use this next year to learn everything you can from these wise people you call parents.

9. Do nice things for others
If you love animals, the local animal shelter would probably love your help. Enjoy farm work? See if any of the local farms need a hand. Have a neighbor with an overgrown lawn? Grab your dad’s lawnmower and mow their lawn. During this next year, look for ways you can add brightness to someone else’s life through random kind gestures.

10. Gain some perspective
What are your goals in life? What do you wish to accomplish by the time you’re 25, 30, 40 and more? What kind of career will make you happy? What are the values you wish to always take with you, and what are the bad habits you hope to shed? Use this next year to become clear on what you wish for your life, and to start mapping out your plan to make that happen!

What would you add to a gap year list? Did you take a gap year? What was your experience like?

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writingletter

With a household of young adults aged 15-20, I am in the final years of my hands-on parenting stage, and the empty nest is getting closer and closer. If I think too hard about this fact, I am liable to burst into tears. However, sometimes this revelation is a light in a tunnel of teenage moodiness and rebellion.

Each stage of parenting has both pros and cons, and these later teen years are no exception. I love that my kids are so independent now. I no longer need to coordinate their every move, or ensure they are properly entertained. All of my kids are capable of jumping on a bus or driving a car downtown to go hang out with their friends, and they earn their own money to pay their way for non-essentials. They make many of their own meals and keep track of their own homework. And I thoroughly enjoy conversations with them, because they are at a level where we can discuss things from current events to their natural day-to-day.

However, their growing independence comes with a price. Being so close to total independence, my kids tend to believe they should have the kind of absolute freedom all adults have, even while they are still a dependent in our household. They fight certain rules and obligations, and the power struggle is real. They have reached an age when forcing them to do anything is no longer realistic, and I have to rely heavily on the ideals I’ve raised them with, and hope with all my might that these ideals possess some sort of pull in their current decision making.

There are many times when I feel like just throwing my hands up in the air, and maybe even giving them the house while I move to some deserted island. But just when I have reached my breaking point with these rebellious, stubborn teens, they do something to remind me that they are really just brilliant human beings that I cherish more than anything, and they are only testing their wings before they are ready to fly.

I came across an article I wrote when my daughter was 13. In it, I was going through an especially difficult time with her, and I was frustrated with how far our relationship had fallen in such a short amount of time. But then I put myself in her shoes, remembering what it was like when I was 13 years old. I ended up writing a letter to my 13-year-old self, telling my younger self all the things I would have loved to have known back then. You can read that letter here.

My daughter is now nearing her high school graduation, my son is finishing his first year of high school, and my stepson is figuring out his career goals after college. It’s so easy to place my adult ideals on their day-to-day actions, and grow frustrated when they don’t do things the way I would do them. However, if I look back at the person I was at their age, and remember what it was like as an older teen getting ready to leave the nest, I gain a bit of perspective about their role in life.

I also remember all the things I grappled with at their age.

So in favor of understanding my teens a bit better, I took a stroll down memory lane and wrote a new letter to myself from way back when. Here’s what I came up with:

Dear 18-year-old Crissi,

At this moment, you are preparing for high school prom, graduation, and the moment when you can pack your bags and leave your over-controlling parents and all of their ridiculous rules. I get it. You can’t wait for your freedom. These are exciting times. However, as your 38-year-old self, I feel it my duty to share a few things I’ve learned about us in the past 20 years. I hope you will take some of these things in consideration.

1. If you are given the choice between moving in with that exciting bad boy or getting a college education, CHOOSE EDUCATION. Trust me on this, it’s going to save you a lot of headaches. That being said, I know you’re not going to listen to me. See #8.

2. Smoking does not make you look cool. Just stop.

3. Pay attention to who your real friends are, and stop wishing you were hanging out with the “cool kids.” Years from now, those cool kids won’t even know who you are. But your real friends? They’ll still care for you 20 years after you graduate.

4. You don’t have to fall in love with every boy who pays attention to you.

5. YOU ARE NOT FAT.

6. Right now, you believe you are completely plain and forgettable. But years from now, you are going to find out from several people that they looked up to you, had a crush on you, or wished they had been better friends with you. You are not as invisible as you think you are. However, the biggest takeaway I want you to gain from this knowledge is that you should really be kinder to yourself. You’re kind of awesome.

7. You will have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU. Sorry. And congratulations.

8. That boy you’re dating is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. He is also going to be one of the best. Through him, you get to have two really awesome kids, and you are also going to gain a real life education.

9. You are going to be way too young when you start having kids. You are going to make countless mistakes. However, you will also learn so much as you all grow together. And when they are older, you will get to be the cool, “young” mom, and you will share a unique bond with your kids.

10. You will one day be friends with your parents. Right now, you don’t get why they are so strict, and why there are so many rules. You are even plotting all the ways you will be a much better parent than they are. Trust me, they actually know what they are doing—at least for the most part. One day, you will reach a point in your parenthood when you understand why they did things a certain way, especially when your own kids are being buttheads. You will also have many days when you want to call them and apologize.

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?

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“I’m thinking you and I should catch a mom’s night out at some point…we seem to have a lot in common.”

It was the text I received from the mom of one of my son’s friends. I had known her for a little over a year, and it was true, we did have a lot in common. I had been thinking the same thing about her as well, how we seemed to be a perfect match for friendship. But I didn’t know how to broach the subject. I’m shy when it comes to friendships.

Yes, me – shy.

Truth is, it’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and spill my life secrets for everyone to read and dissect (and, as some of you may have noticed, been at the mercy of a few trolls….). I’m not actually looking at you when I type. And therefore, I can pretend that what I’m writing is merely a long letter to none other than ME. But it’s nerve wracking to be face to face with someone else, offering more of myself than common pleasantries. You will not see me hosting any huge awards night (I’d be much more James Franco than Anne Hathaway). You won’t see me throwing the party of the century. And in social situations, I am more likely to see how the food is holding up than looking someone in the eye and casually gabbing about the latest and greatest in my life. For someone who has a lot to say in typed word, I have nothing to say in person. So obviously, making friends is not my forte.

And making friends with girls, even more intimidating.

I think it stems from my school days. I was not the most popular, but I definitely had friends in elementary. Of course, elementary is easy. In those grades, everyone is friends. If someone gets mad over something, it’s forgotten by the next day. It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight, if you don’t own the most expensive clothing, or how your hair is cut. Your classmates are the very people you grow up with. But it all changes in Jr. High, sometimes a little before. Girls I had been friends with suddenly sectioned off into an elite group, and me and my chubby self were not allowed. Of course it hurt, though I pretended it didn’t. I hung out with a much smaller group of girls and made different friends. But the awkward shame of being outcasted by the very people I loved as my friends hurt me to the core.

In high school I finally had a redeeming moment. At a football game, a girl I had been friends with in our younger days got into conversation with me. She had surpassed the Jr. High social mountain, climbing her way to the top thanks to her beauty and parents’ wealth. And here she was laughing at all my wisecracks, a defense mechanism I had perfected in my nerdiness.

“Why haven’t we been hanging out?” she asked me. And we planned a sleepover that very night in her elaborate castle of a home. We spent the night giggling and gossiping, and the morning making crepes in her huge kitchen. And the Monday after the weekend, I ditched my usual friends and meandered over to the group she hung out with, quietly hanging on the outside of the circle. She waved to me, and I smiled, making my way closer to her. But my presence didn’t go totally unnoticed.

“What is SHE doing here?” one girl hissed, sneering at me through narrowed eyes. And my new friend smiled apologetically as I sheepishly exited the group and went back to where I belonged, wondering what the hell I was thinking in the first place.

Why are girl friendships so hard? My 7th grade daughter is discovering the perils of girl friendships in her first year of Jr. High, suffering at the hands of some mean-spirited cattiness. Veronica, the P360 mommy blogger at “Adventures in Mommyhood” describes her own conflicts with girl friendships, as well as her fears for her own three girls, in a recent blog titled Mean Girls. On the Santa Rosa Mom boards, moms have lamented over friendship loss that occurs when babies are born. And as I sat over lunch with my new friend, she also described the loss that happened when she started having children, noticing that her friends were disappearing one by one, and how making and keeping friendships with girls now seemed harder than ever.

And in this new friend, I suddenly saw a fellow sister – someone who was describing what I have gone through, and what many women were experiencing all over the place.  Trust issues, shyness, friendship loss, and the phobias that enter each time a friend abandons us – leaving us to check out the food table rather than meet new people.

I’m happy to say that our Girl Date was fabulously successful.  We started out shyly, but warmed up to be true pals by the end. She’s even called my back so we can go out again.  I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Have you experienced difficulties in friendships with girls?

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