I Asked ~200 of My Former High School Classmates One Question

Did you know that on Facebook if you start rapid firing off messages that you could get blocked from sending out new ones for a period of time? Yep, that’s what happened to me when I woke up one morning and decided to reach out of most of my former high school classmates and ask them the same question and compile the results here.

Why did I decide to do this? As I reflected more on the year we graduated (2005) many of us are 30 or soon-to-be 30. Entering a new decade would hopefully bring wisdom from life experiences. Marriages. Children. Loss. Heartbreak. Shattered Dreams. Triumph.

One Question.

What is one thing you have learned since high school?

It’s not fair because most of us would say that we have learned a lot in about 12 years time. I wanted to focus on one because this would allow them to summarize what came immediately to mind or reflect one the underlying narrative of their own story. Here’s what was said:

Life is too short and ever changing. In one sense it is beautiful because at some point in your life you realize that nothing is forever so you start to cherish more moments. In another sense, it is bittersweet because you realize that you will experience heartbreak, sadness, betrayal, all the negative feelings we try to avoid, more than once and that can be hard to accept. If you let yourself grow from these negative times it will ultimately make you a better person.

Surrounding yourself with positive people makes your life is as hard or easy as you choose. Every mistake and set back makes you a better, stronger person.

I have pretty much learned everything about real life since high school! I would say that education and learning come with time and experience!

I’ve learned that family is really important. I took it for granted in high school. Now that I have a family of my own and have lost grandparents, I’ve learned how important they are.

Honestly, I think the biggest thing I have learned is to be patient and accept life as it comes. You can’t force anything in life and whatever is meant to come your way, will find you.

I’ve learned just how important a good support base is. In high school, I never really fit into any of the established groups. I had people who I said hi to in the hallways or felt comfortable working on a group project with but my anxiety made me awkward and I found it hard not to feel out of place pretty much everywhere. As I’ve moved all over the country with my family I’ve seen how important it is having people who you can rely on, especially in the times I had to survive without it. I’ve moved to 4, soon to be 5 different states in the last 7 years and it usually takes me at least a year to make a friend and then we usually move to another duty station shortly after. Knowing no one for thousands of miles will pretty much make you feel like you are in high school sitting alone in the cafeteria during lunch every day. That’s a really long time to be without someone to talk to other than your spouse or have any help if you need to go to an appointment. Once I had to go about 18 months without going to the dentist because I didn’t have anyone to watch my baby. At our last duty station, I was really lucky to make a group of friends made of wives from my husband’s boat. I finally had someone to vent to or hang out with when my husband was out to sea and it had been awhile since I had talked to another adult. It made a huge difference in my mental health and my ability to be a better wife and mom. It’s interesting that in a society where the norm in to be connected on so many different social media levels that you can feel so alone but its more common than we think. The past year as my husband has been deployed and I’ve been suffering from postpartum depression, my support base has literally saved my life. They are there for me through the good and the bad. It is definitely a priority to me now to maintain and build those bonds.

I have definitely learned a lot since high school, it’s really hard to pick one thing to talk about. On the list of the most important things I’ve learned is how to be happy. I spent a lot of years of my life(high school included) trying to make very one else happy. Always worried about what other people would think. Scared to try something new for fear of rejection. Now, I would say I’m the exact opposite. Without taking time for granted, I only do things that set my soul on fire. Things I’m passionate about, things that my kids and myself enjoy doing that make our hearts happy. I’ve learned that it’s not “things” that make me happy, is the moments and the memories that are made. For the very first time ever I can honestly say that deep down inside I’m truly happy????

I’d have to say how important family is. I’ve lost 2 family members in the past 10 years. Their deaths have completely split up and divided my family. I’m very grateful to have my wife’s family in my life but it will never really be the same. I grew up with a huge fun family with gatherings all the time. Growing up I never really knew how blessed I was until it was all gone.

Hmm..honestly since high school I have learned everything I need to know in life to survive and prosper. I know this is a very broad spectrum but I didn’t really start ‘learning’ until after high school life. Meaning the trait I chose for work I obtained specific knowledge through college. Everything that is most important in life I learned from my closest family/friends! Life skills can’t be taught in a classroom setting, it has to be obtained through experiences, I strongly believe. So that’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing lol! So I would have to say since high school I have learned how to really live life to the fullest or at least try to every day I am blessed with! 

I have been doing a lot of reflecting on life lately with the situation I have found myself in. I will say that the one thing I have learned is how important education is. Whether it is getting a degree, licensed, or certified in a trade it truly can pave a way for your life. I am a mother of 2 kiddos. I met my ex after a year of college and I was going to take a year off and I got pregnant with our first child. I did not go back and finish. We got pregnant with our second child as he was struggling with his addiction to alcohol. I sent him to rehab to try and help him but he relapsed 3 weeks later. This was all while pregnant with Josie. It became a safety issue as he tried to pick up our son from school intoxicated while I was working. Four days after that my water broke 9 weeks early, which caused me to be on bed rest. I finally had enough of his shenanigans at that point because he kept leaving and coming back drunk. So needless to say I have learned quite a bit in the last 12 years but faith has gotten me through every step of the way.

One thing I have learned since high school is….To live in the moment, to be in the current season. It was so easy to look to the future as an 18-year-old about to graduate from high school. Always looking forward to getting to the next chapter, turning the next page. When now that I have started a family and had a baby. All I want is to push pause, to soak up this very moment. So I try to do that every day. I’m sure I still fall short in doing so some days, but I’ve learned to recognize it and to push pause.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that my life is so much more meaningful and exciting when it’s not all about me putting efforts into being someone I’m not.

A second thing I’ve learned is that discipline is actually working for you, not against you.

I know you asked for one but it’s hard to narrow it down.

One thing that I have learned since high school is that there is no one that loves you more than God and your family. They always have your best interests at heart; and will always be your rock when you need it the most.

One thing I’ve learned since high school is there is not one single point when I’ll magically know everything I need to know. I imagined I’d graduate from high school and go to college and learn a bunch of stuff, then boom, I’d be an adult with the knowledge and responsibility that comes with being an adult. I’ve learned how I’ll never know everything, and that I’m constantly changing and evolving, and there will never be a point that I can say “I am done growing as a person”, not even when I’m 100 years old.

That the “cool” kids you think you have to be have no effect on who you can become.

I have learned to enjoy each moment life throws your way. When I was in high school I wanted to be an adult so bad. I feel as though I wished the time away. Now I wish I could go back because those are the memories you will carry for the rest of your life.

What we achieve has nothing to do with who we are.

I used to feel like all my value lied in what I achieved (my grades, awards, accolades, etc.) or how others felt about me. Even if I didn’t THINK I felt that way, I definitely did. Over the past 10 years I’ve learned (and will continue learning I’m sure) that my value has nothing to do with any of that, but is purely in who I am to God- his daughter. He’s proud of me, he loves me unconditionally apart from anything I do or don’t do, and he defines me.

I’m trying to reflect back on who I was in high school. I was SO shy and insecure beyond measure! I had no confidence at all!! I definitely am different in all aspects now. What changed me the most? What lesson did I learn? Having a baby and giving over mind, body, and soul to my beautiful son. In other words, the biggest lesson I learned is that the greatest self-confidence, self-worth you’ll ever achieve is to love someone more than you love yourself.

Best thing I’ve learned and am still learning is to not worry too much about what other people think. I spent so much of high school worried about others opinions of me, and in college and beyond I started to realize that none of that really matters!

One thing I have learned from high school is…no matter what path you choose… career, job, passion, money. All that really matters is the person you are (mom, sister, wife, teacher, etc…) Just be kind and don’t lose faith. Any career will eventually become just a job. Stay focused on being a good person.

I guess I’ll say one of the biggest things for me was learning to manage family life as an adult. For example, things like financial planning (budgeting, saving, investing, and planning for retirement), maintaining a balance between work and personal life, and the many other parental responsibilities that go along with raising kids.

One thing I learned is not to procrastinate. In high school I was terrible did all the time somehow I was an “A” student I think it was that I worked good under pressure. Then I went to college and that’s a big no. You have way more homework aside of your adult responsibilities that we have to have time management. I’m a mother of 4.  My oldest is in sports, I’m a wife, I’m in my last semester of school full time, and work full time. So I learned to time manage doesn’t work all the time but it is less stressful when you plan things ahead of time.

Okay so here it goes… I would say that the biggest thing that I have learned since high school is that things are rarely going to go as planned but that isn’t always a bad thing. I think as a 16-year-old you look at your future as this far off place and have this grandeur picture of what it looks like. Then when reality sets in none of those things feel right. Those expectations can set you up for disappointment at times and that, too, is okay. At 30 I saw myself being married with kids in suburbia and that was that. But in reality, at 30 I’m successful in my career, am very independent, have the same amazing best friends that I’ve had for the last almost 16 years and am just taking life as it comes at me without a real plan for where the next 10 years may take me!

It’s about who you know/meet and the hard work you put into your opportunities. Networking is very valuable. you can do anything set out to do. A piece of paper saying you qualify is not good enough.. family is always there. It’s up to you to be a part of it. Friends come and go but your soulmates will stay connected.

One thing that I have learned since high school is that there is no one that loves you more than God and your family. They always have your best interests at heart; and will always be your rock when you need it the most.

Honestly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that everything falls into place once you learn how to love yourself. I think I spent most of high school and college trying to be what I thought was acceptable to others, and this created a lot of misery and self-loathing. My decisions were driven based on how I perceived others might think about them, and I really lost touch with myself. I learned the concept of self-compassion in graduate school and it literally changed my life. I’ve learned that if you love yourself, the hardships aren’t so hard, the losses don’t cut so deep, and failing miserably can be a laughable event. I think of it this way: You are the one person you literally have to spend the rest of your life with, so why not be kind?

I’ve learned that no matter how much you have yourself together in high school and college that you are never prepared for the real thing.

That’s nothing in high school prepared me to be a parent or life lessons that we skipped being so busy with things that take place behind Burke’s doors.

Probably not something you want to preserve in a blog post, but… it doesn’t matter. Sure, some high schoolers will keep their friends from high school for life, and some may rely on lessons they learned from high school to guide their everyday actions. The majority, though? High school was a phase, it was a part of life, four brief, passing years. It may have been a coming of age, but college was a coming of maturity, and the years thereafter a coming of knowledge and understanding. High School, in the grand scheme, doesn’t matter – a short, mandatory prerequisite to the parts of life that actually matter.

So if this were to be advice to a High School freshman, I’d say this: if you can hone your social skills and be fluent in what’s popular, do that; no one ever suffered later in life from being liked. If you can have a great time, do it! But if you can’t, that’s no big deal – this is only a minor part of your life, only a preparatory step for what actually determines if you will be a success or failure. So do your best during this step to set yourself as best you can for the next.

Life is too short to try and be something you are not. Be yourself and you will respect yourself.

You truly learn who your real friends are. Ones you can trust, ones that are always there to help when you need it, ones that will stand by you through the good and the rough times.

To wear sunscreen! I work in dermatology now and I cringe thinking of all the time I spent in a tanning bed in high school!

How quickly life can change, be grateful for what you have!

Money handling is probably at the top. Lots of trial and error, credit cards can be a dangerous game, live within your means.

One thing I have learned since HS is that it doesn’t matter the amount of friends you have but the quality of your friendships.

I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned since high school is just how fast time goes by. It seems like days fly by, so enjoy life every day and don’t worry about the past or future. Also, I’ve noticed no matter how much money you make it’s never as much as you thought it would be… cuz taxes suck haha!

I change as I grow older. I an either channel that change in what I want to be, including values, convictions, faith, etc., or I can be tossed about in shifting currents like a ship without a sail.

I’ve learned to be content with where life has taken me even if it’s not the road I had originally planned for myself. I always thought I would’ve seen the whole world by 30 and lived in all these cool cities but I am much more thankful that my life went the way it did than the way I planned it.

I also learned that I never needed the Pythagorean theorem.

If you’ve reached the bottom then that’s awesome you took the time to read through everything. You’ve probably noticed some recurring themes such as being yourself, valuing family relationships, and embracing unpredictable changes.

My answer?

I got a 22 on my ACT. (Namely, because I wasn’t motivated and also because I didn’t study.) I barely made it into UNO and I felt my grades were a reflection of my intelligence. I’ve since realized that being able to communicate effectively, being kind to people, genuinely invest in relationships, and working with integrity- these attributes can make you successful as well if you didn’t have book smarts. Unless you want to be a doctor, then you definitely have to be book smart 🙂


  1. Cam, you writings are absolutely amazing! You at 30 blow me away!

    1. Thank you, Lana! I appreciate the kinds words and thanks for reading!

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