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4 Things I Wish I'd Known as an Awkward High Schooler

#2. High School Is Largely About Survival

Like I mentioned waaaay above these words, some people have a super fun time in high school or, failing that, some people have a time that doesn't leave any profound impact on them at all. They see high school as a very brief, very low-stakes thing that came and went and didn't enhance or impair their ability to enjoy life. I envy their maturity, as a socially awkward lunatic who stored reruns of Doug in the parts of his brain that were supposed to be reserved for empathy and emotional maturity.

For people like me, high school wasn't always great (was that not clear yet?!), but it would have been a lot easier if one person had sat me down and said to me, "Hey, man, just stop whining and get through it." When you're in high school, everything feels so HIGH STAKES because you're learning what emotions are for the first time and you're slowly taking those first few steps toward being a human. Everything feels important and life-or-death, because high school is the first time in your life when you feel things other than "hungry" and "need to pee."

On the first day of high school, someone should address all of the students and say, "Work hard, be nice to each other, try to have fun, study and REMEMBER: This is all mostly bullshit. Just get through it, because after high school, real life starts."

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Unless you go to college. Then life just sort of hangs out in the wings for another four years.

I was always trying to win high school, like the movies told me to do. I was looking for the moment where I overcame my awkwardness and slight stutter and started becoming, like, 11 Fonzies. Really, what I should have done was just keep my head down and hang out until high school was over. I would stop stressing about high school as if the decisions I made there would impact every social and professional aspect of my being for the rest of my life (spoiler: they did not), and I would relax and have fun and, mostly, bide my time. I'd bide my time because ...

#1. Things Will Get Wildly Better ... Eventually

(At this point, it's a cliche to say "It gets better" [which is why I very cleverly added "wildly" and said "things" instead of "it"], but just because something's a cliche doesn't mean it isn't true.)

Getting out of high school, whether you go to college or just hang out, is just wonderful. As someone who pretends to be an adult, high school reduced to a sentence sounds crazy to me: several hundred people who have nothing in common beyond geography are forced to spend every single minute together five days a week while A) being force-fed an impossible number of lessons and B) going through puberty. That sounds like a nightmare.

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College was better. It was crazy better, for a socially awkward guy. And I'm not saying that college was better because all colleges are full of socially awkward people; I'm saying all colleges are full of everyone. In high school, you're sort of stuck with whomever you're stuck with. If you go to school in a town where high school football's important, you'd better be into high school football, because otherwise you'll be ostracized. You do the best you can navigating a world that often feels alienating, and that's what you think life is. You suppress those nerdy things you do, as an awkward person, because you're just trying to get through the day without bringing too much attention to yourself.

After high school, in either real life or college, whatever nerdy things you did in high school that got you picked on or made you feel embarrassed or alienated, I guarantee you that there are enough people around you who also love doing those exact same things. In high school, I made little figurines out of clay and shot movies alone in my room and kept quiet about it, because I didn't want the rest of my school to make fun of me (I came from a largely non-clay-model-making high school). In college, all of my weird little hobbies came out and I pretty quickly found a bunch of other nerds who did the same kind of stuff, or at the very least, thought what I did was cool (in its own unique, objectively uncool way).

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Growing up and getting comfortable in your own skin isn't about suddenly becoming cool with the outside world; it's about finding enough people who share your interests that you don't even notice the outside world. Every nerdy thing that I did alone in high school found a home with people outside of high school, and it never felt lame or nerdy or shitty (even though it probably should have). Hell, I sang a cappella in college and didn't even realize how lame and nerdy that was until fucking never. I still think our group was dope as shit.

Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies), and is just now coming out of his awkward high school phase (everyone else). Follow him on Twitter to find out about spontaneous San Diego Cracked meet-ups.

Check out more from Dan in 5 Terrible Situations for the Socially Awkward Man and 5 Situations That Are Secretly Terrifying for Awkward People.

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