Starting High School

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Two weeks ago, I embarked upon the beginning of a new and important era in my life: I became a high school student, entering as a freshman at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North. Going to high school can be intimidating enough on its own, but in my case, it was even more so, because I did not graduate from the Community Middle School right across the street. I spent two years at a private girls-only school in Princeton, graduating with a class of 38 girls. When deciding whether to stay or leave for high school, going to North sounded like a crazy idea because of my drastically different, quieter, more sheltered middle school experience, but the more I thought about it, the idea began to sound new, fun, and exciting.

High school North has a great reputation for academics. And I was ready to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. My parents were happy about the thought of not driving me across Route 1 any more and even happier about the thought of not having to pay any more tuition.

Though my house is located almost literally right next door to the high school, I have always felt like an outsider with only my imagination to let me know what really goes on behind those big front doors. So my first day was a bit overwhelming. I am still getting used to the wacky schedule, and the building is huge, very easy to get lost in. But other than the more challenging classes, the start of high school drew a whole other aspect to my 14 year old life. The four years of high school are the important years for discovering who you are and who you want to be, a scary but very intriguing concept. A stereotypical high school is made up of different types of cliques depending on who you are. With a class about ten times the size of my middle school graduating class and especially, being the new girl, I have some important choices to make that could shape the rest of my high school career, and eventually, the rest of my life.

So I have to ask myself, do I want to be the cheerleader? Do I want to join the ping-pong club or the student council? Or would I like to be more of the studious nerd type? I’ve never been a field hockey or lacrosse player, but is now the time to find out if I might be? These are the types of questions that are running through my head and I’m sure other members of my class feel the same way I do.

It’s always normal to look to the outside world for role models, to glean ideas to shape who I might want to be, but there is a severe lack of positive role models right now, and if anything, there is an overabundance of negative role models. I’m not just talking about the Paris Hiltons and the Lindsay Lohans of the world. Even a clean-cut, Disney heroine like Vanessa Hudgens, who I really liked in High School Musical, has turned out to be not what she seemed to be. I was very disappointed to hear that there were nude pictures of her on the Internet. At least she apologized right away. But really, who are we supposed to look to when we are trying to figure out who we are and who we want to be? I’m starting to think that looking to the media for guidance is not such a great idea after all. However, teenagers today watch television, go on the Internet, and read magazines where, like me, they will find things that could influence their lives in significant ways, a lot of which are negative right now.

While I missed Britney Spears’ obscene VMA performance, I saw the way the media pounced and I immediately felt extremely bad for the singer. Of course, at lunch the next day all my friends were making fun of Britney; meanwhile, I was appalled by the fact that an incident like this becomes such a big topic of conversation in our teenage lives. Excuse me, but there is a war going on in Iraq and there are a lot of crooked politicians and school board members in New Jersey and global warning is melting the glaciers.

And even though Britney’s stomach is not made up of washboard abs, she doesn’t need all the negative attention; I mean compared to my mother’s abs, hers are completely normal, so what is the big deal? I feel that the news, at least for the past six months, has been completely repetitive and depressing. Sex tapes, drug scandals, and rehab drama over and over again has to say something about our society, right? To me, the message is that it has to change, but it also seems to me that American citizens, including us teenagers, are accepting the negativity and scandal as just another part of life. We’re becoming complacent.

I was even surprised that the Vanessa Hudgens case didn’t get as much attention as it should have. With no help or guidance or very few good role models, this is what my generation, the future of American society, will become, and that is not okay. Britney clones are not what we need.

There is hope, though. This past summer, my mom took me with her to her 25th college reunion at Yale University. The event was such a blast. There were interesting lectures, fun parties, and I got a little taste of what college life is like. All in all it was such an amazing eye-opening experience.

During the weekend I met some of my mother’s fellow classmates, with whom I have to say, I was very impressed. I met my first U.S. senator, Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, which was especially cool because she is my mom’s age and she has already been elected senator. Abigail Disney, also a member of my mom’s graduating class and also the grand-niece of Walt Disney, shared a room with us. I learned about her philanthropy and I was just so impressed and in awe. I was also so excited to be sharing a dorm with a celebrity. It was the first time in my 14 years on this planet that I actually said to my mom, gosh your friends are so cool.

The whole weekend made me realize that to find people to look up to, you might not have to look to the outside world and the media for help. Role models may be closer to home than we know.

Editor’s note: Molly Kwon Brossman is the daughter of Euna Kwon Brossman, author of the Suburban Mom column that usually occupies this space in the West Windsor-Plainsboro News.

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Molly grew up in Plainsboro and attended Wicoff, Dutch Neck, Millstone River, Community Middle, and High School North. A 2015 graduate of Vassar College, she is heading off this fall to the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she will be working on a masters in Comparative Politics. When she’s not writing this column, she loves playing golf and singing at the Thursday night open mic sessions at Grover’s Mill Coffee House in West Windsor.