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We were all freshmen once

Freshmen, consider yourselves warned: it's not going to be easy. It's not going to be peaches and cream and rainbows and butterflies. It's not going to be simple classwork and easy A's. It's not going to be like The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Mean Girls. It will, however, be an experience. And -- if you do it right -- it will be fun.

Talking to incoming freshman is funny, a nauseous sort of nostalgia effervescing with a distinctly thrilling relief to be done with the messy anxiety and heady enthrallment.

Talking to outgoing college freshman is another topic entirely. It's far too scary for me to tackle at this point. Stay tuned. A year from now, I may (oh, Lordy, I hope) have further insight.

Once you get out of the middle school, you realize how much you disliked middle school. It is entirely fine during the three years of required attendance, and then you get to ninth grade and everyone expounds the fact that now everything starts to count. (Wait, so why did I bother with those first nine years of school? Are they implying that first grade's gluey Halloween artwork and sixth grade's famous people presentations aren't relevant to resumes and college apps? I protest! Let's get some picket signs and storm the White House. We're going to the top with this one! Besides, the lawns always look so well-manicured on television during the Easter egg hunt.) High school, in comparison to everything beforehand, is entirely riveting.

Of course, it's as frightening as you make it. I remember being terrified of uppity upperclassmen tainted by senioritis and delusions of superiority; of teachers who despise newcomers in the form of ninth-graders; of trash cans and lunch lines and the combinations to lockers spacious enough to fit freshmen of any size. Well, kiddies, I'm here to tell you it's not so awful.

However, I can think of a few attributes common to freshmen, which are indeed frowned upon by the rest of the DLHS population. Fear not, newbies, as I lay down the law and void a few myths.

Okay, to begin with: all seniors do not detest your very existence. I promise. Some seniors, certainly; a few juniors, sure; random sophomores, probably. But not all of us, my dears. A few blessed individuals involved with Link Crew, a glorious organization I was a part of last year, might even genuinely like you and desire to aid you in your tricky transition (that, by the way, we all survived, as will you. I promise that I've never heard of a casualty within the first week, and that is truly the struggle in its entirety). We won't slam you in lockers (unless we know you personally). Beyond being slightly wary around lidless trash cans, you have nothing to fear.

A note to the wise: no clumping. Forming groups in the center of hallways is actually quite immoral, and certainly won't win you points with anyone. Congregate elsewhere, darlings. Also, stopping midway down a staircase to wait for a fellow freshman is bad. Don't do it. Some people (not Thressa) are big enough to plow you over. They will. Don't do it. Finally, halting in the midst of flowing hallway traffic and turning on your heel because you realized your class is on the opposite side of the building is not smart. Make good choices (I yelled that at my little brother as he left the car every day of his fifth grade year. He still adores me for it).

Last year I was pulled over by a ninth-grader mid-hallway during the first week of school. She started in with, "I know everyone hates freshmen, but where is room...?" Honeys, we don't hate you. If you don't know where you're going, ask. Yeah, someone might send you in the opposite direction. (If they look like they might, don't ask them.) The majority, conversely, will gladly give you a route. (If we know where the room is; I know from experience that sometimes I don't. We're all still freshmen in certain aspects.) Asking is definitely preferable to walking around gazing pointedly at the map located in your planner (a valuable item -- don't leave class or your locker without it!). Also, memorize the class you're headed to before leaving the previous one. Having eyes glazed over and locked on your schedule print-out is, for all purposes, asking to be trampled over or snickered at. Again, some upperclassmen forget that they were you only years ago. (Reminder to any upperclassmen reading: we were them only years ago.)

I'm reminded of a 1996 (I love the nineties!) song by The Verve Pipe, titled The Freshman. I was five that year, and therefore very much into alternative/Indie/Britpop. Although the subject matter is heavy and completely unnecessary to broach in this column, the chorus hits like Barry Bonds' baseball bat. (I've never made a reference to sports before. I can only stomach it because it's a simile and an exemplary opportunity for alliteration. What a literary geek, huh? It's okay, feel free to agree; I've adjusted to the social handicaps that come with constant acknowledgement of pronoun-antecedent disagreement. Just ask the friends I still have.) The chorus ponders "what made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise?" and continues to entrust that one would never "die for these sins," as "we were merely freshmen."

Hallway clumping, though hardly a sin, might be looked upon as one. Threats of locker inhabitation won't kill you, and neither will upperclassmen. But remember, my sweets, that you don't know everything (I've been at DLHS three years and working at Dairy Queen still teaches me something fresh everyday; for example, large chocolate malts house enough liquid to thoroughly coat the floor, the blizzard machine, and a just-over-five-foot teenage girl in thick milky scrumptiousness). Don't be the heady incomer who thinks walking on the right-hand side of the hallway is beneath you. (It's okay if you have to hold your hands up shaped into L's to see which direction is right; some of us still do, too. However, when you get your driver's license...make a greater effort on this one.)

Freshmen, do not let yourselves be mere in any sense of the word. Do not allow the connotations laden in an annoyed utterance of "freshman" from a senior to label you or inhibit you. This year can be incredible, if you let it.

I loved freshman year. I remember it being difficult, injected with monstrous syringes of high school drama (not to be confused with the middle school brand), and ultimately thrilling. I don't remember much else, so maybe I hit my head on a slamming locker or the bottom of a trash can.

I spent this afternoon with middle school girls, which takes a few guts to allow for in print. Their excitement is infectious, their adoration of boys adorable, and their fearlessness admirable. I felt thirteen, and it was fun. Don't lose middle school; add to it. And even though you're all taller than me, remember: I am a senior. I don't want to exercise the upperclassmen authority everybody tells me I possess, but I will use it as a defense if compelled to do so. Don't clump, walk swiftly, ask questions, and if you find yourself being shoved in a locker, make sure your fingers get inside, too.

(Thressa Johnson will be a senior at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.)

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