The Rickety Bridge of High School

With the bite marks of middle school and childhood still hot on its heels, and teetering on the brink before college and adulthood, high school and adolescence is the awkward, acne-ridden bridge between the sunshine and rainbows of childhood and the glamour and gravity of adulthood. It's neither here nor there, but some gray spot in between, in the middle of after and before, with no definite starting point or finish line. High school is a rickety bridge missing a few planks and swinging over the edge of a deep crevice, leaving those who cross uncertain if they will fall to their doom, or survive to reach the other side.

Dragons and monsters dot the sides of the bridge of high school, breathing fire and throwing boulders in the form of mountains of homework, stressful exams, a balancing act of extracurricular activities, unfair teachers, and backstabbing cliques. It takes the courage of a hero to even want to venture into high school -- and many of the unfortunates on the bridge have been pushed there, from the snug nest of junior high straight into the lion's den, unarmed and unprepared for the horrors ahead.

The constant bombardment from all sides of the bridge and the struggle to survive are second, however, to the confused mist that overcomes adolescents. The bridge of high school is your initiation to the world, the first step and transition into adulthood, which has no training wheels or stair handles. In those three years between emerging from the innocence of middle school and preparing for the maturity of college, teenagers who are not quite children and not yet adults are caught in a limbo of choices that will set the foundation of their identities in the years to come. The burdensome work, social and peer pressures, and sleepless nights that characterize the surface of high school are only tissues before the core, gravy before the meat, wrapping that covers the box. The real heart of high school lies in the atmosphere itself, in the experiences and the lessons learned, not inside a classroom, but in the spirit of adolescence that high school embodies and exemplifies, a rocky stage in the travels of young heroes.

As with any hero's journey, sidekicks and random bits of assistance provide encouragement for the main character, playing a supporting role as the hero ventures along a quest. There will be dragons in the sky and monsters in the dark of high school, but there will also be knights in shining armor and friends who make the journey bearable. Beyond the dark clouds and wobbly planks of high school lie grassy meadows and rays of sunshine that touch your life and become permanent memories in turbulent times. A world of experiences, of experiments, of old and new, of firsts and lasts.

With the first steps into high school, a new door in life opens, revealing a greater window of the world. At the tip of the cliff of high school, there are endings-as youth and innocence slowly fade into a conscious awareness of something greater, something better, but something still unknown and waiting to be discovered. A slew of beginnings await as well-the cusp of adulthood, of a new adventure, a fresh chapter in the book of life, waiting to be written. There is no predetermined destiny, no inevitable future measured by the thread of fate-the pages of the book are blank, and whatever lies ahead is a clean slate, an uncertain unknown.

But there, in that limbo of uncertainty and absence of fate, lays the true beauty of high school, the light shining above the bridge. In those three years after childhood and before adulthood, standing on that awkward bridge, knowing everything you're not and not knowing anything you are, you have one of the rarest commodities in life.

You have time.

Time to afford to stop, pause for a moment and think, really consider, your goals in life, comparing your choices and directions. Time to experiment, to hypothesize and test, to try, to attempt, to stick your head out of your shell and take a sample of the world around you, from a relatively safe vantage point. As a child, you have time to spare, but you throw away years to faint memories and passing comfort. As an adult, time is money, and not a second can be spared. But an adolescent is neither wasteful nor thrifty, and that break between two opposing spectrums is a pause in the overall path of life, a bridge more like a bench. The future is a foggy question mark, and the past is a trove of memories, but the present, the high school years, is a special time of transition, to learn and use, to wave good-bye to the past and march towards the future, collecting pieces to create a portrait of yourself in between. As in the beginning of life, high school is a time of creation, despite demolition and destruction. With every step you take along the bridge, you add another aspect to your own self.

There is no such thing as finding yourself every minute, every moment, every day, you are creating yourself, adding pieces to the puzzle of your identity. There is no set road paved in stone for you to follow in search of your destiny -- the bridge of high school leads to a great unknown, and each step is a choice for you, and only you, to make. Some will fall off the bridge into the darkness below, and others might stumble, or become tired, but it is the ones who persevere, the ones who trudge on despite the odds stacked against them, the ones who take step after step and make choice after choice-those ones will arrive on the other side, and venture into the great unknown, the hopeful future beyond the murky bridge.