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August 30, 2004

Find your own path

By Stefan Koski

At the beginning of the school year, it’s only appropriate to take pity on the new incoming freshman, inexperienced, ill-prepared and hopelessly innocent — cannon fodder, if you will.

Sure, some freshmen are going to be excited about starting high school.

Some might even be under the impression that these next four years are going to be the fabled “glory days of youth.”

For some, they might well turn out that way.

For the rest, certainly for most of the normal people out there, this just might be an all-expense-paid ticket to the fiery torments of Hades.

So if you are a freshman, what do you do?

Well, like in all disaster situations, the key thing to remember is to remain calm.

Upperclassmen can smell fear, and will react accordingly.

Keep cool, don’t panic, and above all, do not freak out. Venting your fear, anger or insanity might feel better in the short term, but in the long run you’ll probably regret it.

Scratch that — you’ll definitely regret it.

Next, from a social standpoint, do not try to stand out.

All your life you’ve been told to be yourself. Now I’m telling you that you should do that only to a certain extent.

Don’t open yourself to ridicule or do something stupid that will make you a target for derision.

Trust me, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities to screw up in public. There’s no need to start right from the beginning.

Eventually, you’re bound to find some people that you click with, but don’t be stressed out if it doesn’t happen right away.

For all of your academic-related paranoias, I’d advise you to just relax.

Grades are important, but they’re not a life and death struggle. If you fail a test or something, life will go on. It’s when you fail four or five in a row that you need to start being concerned.

Do a sport or join a club, but only the ones that you really want to try.

Never do anything simply because it’ll look good on a college resume. A lot of things will.

It doesn’t hurt to start thinking about college, but it’s no big deal if you’re a little lost when it comes to future careers. Most kids are.

Cafeteria food? Hell, if you’re brave and you’ve got health insurance, go for it.

I’ve never touched the stuff. Just because chicken nuggets have white meat doesn’t mean it came from a chicken. (Rats have white meat, too, y’know.)

And when it comes to your “extracurricular” activities, try not to sink yourself too deep.

I’ve known a lot of freshmen who kick off their high school lifestyle at full force and live to regret it.

Some adults want me to tell you this, but if you’re going to be drinking at a party, make sure it’s with a group of friends that you trust.

You want to be in good hands so that if, for some reason, you go too far, you’ll have people that’ll be able to help you.

I’d also suggest that you stay away from weed and cigarettes, but ultimately, it’s your life.

You’re the one that’s going to decide what the next four years (and beyond) are going to be like for you.

I’ve met people who’ve done both, and they’re not really any happier because of it.

I’m sure you’ve still got a lot of questions, but in all honesty, there’s only one thing that can prepare you for high school: experience.

And, kid, there’s only one way to get that.

I’ll just end by saying, “Good luck, freshman.”

You’re going to need it.

Remember to keep calm, keep cool, and, lastly, when you’re lost on that first day, don’t ask people like me for directions.

It only gives me a chance to use one of my favorite lines: “Excuse me, do you know where Room 124 is?”

 “Yeah, it’s right after Room 123 and right before Room 125. It’s got a door and everything. You can’t miss it.”

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