Thank You, High School

The journey to becoming who you want to be is never straightforward. There are always twists, turns, challenges and bumps along the way. Growing up, I hated high school passionately. All I wanted to do was fast forward to college, where I’d get to study what I wanted among people who wanted to study too. I was continually frustrated with my peers and often felt awkward and out of place. I was chomping at the bit for something more (though I didn’t know what that was) and frustrated that high school was “holding me back.”

Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that my painful journey through high school has helped me in ways I never could have dreamed.  Without realizing it, my many wonderful teachers imparted knowledge and skills to me that have helped me throughout my life, especially as Creative Director for Virtuous Prom. I’ve also come to see that the tension and pain of feeling out of place among my peers has positively shaped me as well, and enabled me to understand, appreciate and positively interact with the many vendors and customers we interact with on a daily basis.  I never would have dreamed that those years of pain and (often) boredom would end up blessing me as an adult.

High School Grimace

My “Can I get out of here?” high school grimace

When Will We Use This?

I imagine high school teachers hear the refrain, “When will we use this?” more times than they can count. After all, it’s hard to understand as a sixteen year old how quadratic equations, hanging participles and reading The Picture of Dorian Gray really pays off in the “real world.”

More than anything, the truth is that the skill of working hard and “applying yourself” is the real payout from high school. No matter what you study, if you practice discipline and hard work, nothing you study in high school will be a “waste of time.”  Learning to work hard is the best skill you can have in life, whether you go to college or enter the workforce right out of high school.

I won’t claim that everything I studied in high school has found a real world application, but a surprising amount has. This morning, a client asked how much adding a petticoat to her modest wedding dress would shorten her skirt’s length. I paused for a second, and then remembered  that I could apply the Pythagorean Theorem (which was lovingly seared into my brain by my amazing math teacher, Mrs. Sheline) to the problem and was able to give her precise estimate.

The Pythagorean Theorem Applied to the Question of a Petticoat

By treating the skirt as a right triangle, the length of the skirt (b) can be calculated once the petticoat is added.

On a daily basis, I use the reading and writing skills my many amazing English teachers imparted to me, although I’m afraid my undergraduate studies in Koine Greek sometimes distort my sense of proper English syntax. Blame them not for any odd phraseology!

I even use principles of chemistry in my duties at Virtuous Prom: when we have to dye fabric, I know how to accelerate the chemical reaction and intensify the dye (i.e. through raising the temperature and increasing agitation).

Knowledge is Power

No matter how boring something may seem at the time, you never know what can hold the key to future success. I keenly remember doing a series of grammar exercises on “hanging participles” in English class with my beloved teacher, Mrs. Hanson. To say our exercises were boring would be a kind understatement. I absolutely never expected to use that knowledge, especially as participles aren’t especially common in English. They are, however, very common in Koine Greek and that tedious exercise in high school paid off tremendously as I passionately set off studying Greek in college. Knowledge is power, no matter how irrelevant it may seem in the moment.

So, thank you, high school, for teaching me patience, endurance, and hard work along with participles and the Pythagorean Theorem. I wouldn’t have made it half as far without you!