“Don’t Peak in High School.
Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing going on in their current life. What I’ve noticed is that no one who was a big star in high school is also a big star later in life, except athletes. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.
I was never the lead in the play. I don’t think I went to a single party with alcohol at it. No on shared pot with me. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I even knew marijuana and pot were the same thing. My parents didn’t let me do social things on weeknights because weeknights were for homework, and maybe an an episode of The X-Files if I was being a good kid (X-Files was on Friday night), and on extremely rare occasions I could watch Seinfeld (Thursday, a school night), if I just aced my PSATs or something. I had a great time in high school, but it wasn’t the high school experience you seen on teen dramas, where people are in serious romantic relationships, and hanging out in parking lots or whatever (isn’t that loitering?). I had fun in my academic clubs, watching movies with my girlfriends, learning Latin, having long, protracted, unrequited crushes on older guys who didn’t know me, and yes, hanging out with my family. I liked hanging out with my family! Later, when you’re grown up, you realize you never get to hang out with your family. You pretty much only have eighteen years to spend with them full-time and that’s it. So yeah, it all added up to a happy, memorable time. Even though I was never a star.
Because I was largely ignored at school, I watched everyone like an observant weirdo, not unlike Eugene Levy’s character Dr. Allan Pearl, from Waiting for Guffman, who famously “sat next to the class clown, and studied him.” But I did that with everyone. It has helped me so much as a writer you have no idea.
I just want ambitious teenagers to know it is totally fine to be quiet, observant kids. Besides being a delight to your parents, you will find you have plenty of time later to catch up. So many people I worth with—famous actors, accomplish writers—were overlooked in high school. Be like Allan Pearl. Sit next to the class clown and study him. Then grow up, take everything you learn, and get paid to be a real-life class clown, unlike whatever unexciting thing the actual high school class clown is doing now. I think our class clown is doing marketing in Warwick, Connecticut.”
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