My First Week as a Freshman


Photo via Dallas Morning News


     The concept of high school has always seemed foreign. Far away. Something not even worth thinking about due to its distant occurrence in my life. Yet, it came faster than I thought it would. Three months of summer flew by like a weekend. On Friday night, it seemed like it would last forever, then by Sunday, I realized it had ended. All of a sudden, I was getting back to school ads, emails from teachers, “good luck” texts from family members, and then it was there. Like a rush of wind, it hit. The first week of high school was there. Somehow, I managed to make it through, even though I repressed the occasion. 

     It started with an occasional back-to-school ad in July. By mid-August, every night I was having anxiety dreams about the start of high school. The Friday before the first day of school there was a new student orientation. I saw this as a godsend. This terrifying inevitable doom known as the start of something new was speeding towards me and I did not know how to prepare myself. But this student orientation could help. 

     I woke up that day at 7:00 in the morning for the first time in three months. The day went by in a blur, but I remember thinking “I’ve totally got this,”. The concept of high school was less scary, less foreign, and more tangible. After that orientation, I was an expert on the high school experience. Nothing could stand in the way of my success.

     That weekend my brain flooded with thoughts of high school. I envisioned myself studying, getting top marks, waking up early, being friends with everyone, getting involved with every club imaginable, and just being absolutely savvy on the ways of high school. On Friday, it seemed like the weekend would last forever, then by Sunday, it was over. I couldn’t have been happier, even though deep inside I was absolutely terrified.

     I woke up Monday morning after a series of high school anxiety dreams. The world was in my shaking clammy hand, and I was going to try my best to not drop it. I walked to school like I had done many times before, but this time a little further. I don’t know if it was a beautiful day or if I was just emotional, but the freshly risen sun on my walk to school offered a welcome to the school year. I also didn’t know if it was an appropriate time to listen to “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift, to really feel the moment, so I didn’t. I regret that.

     I reached the building and all I had been thinking about for the past month stood right in front of me. High school. It had happened, it was finally starting. And I didn’t know where to stand, where to put my books, and what to do with my hands. Words cannot describe how absolutely awkward it was to stand in the common space of the first floor knowing very few of the people who surrounded me. None of them were looking at me, but it felt like every pair of eyes in the world were beating me down. Waiting for my first class to start had to have been one of the most drawn-out and awkward 15 minutes of my life.

     Nevertheless, the 15 minutes eventually came to a close, and I found myself in a computer science class. The first words said to me by a teacher were “You’re not in this class, are you?”. Now, I laugh at that, but when it happened my heart dropped. I doubted myself at that moment for the 1000th time that day. I was supposed to be in that class, and now it’s funny. 

     I don’t recall much about the rest of that first day, but I do remember feeling awfully uncomfortable in my own skin. It felt like maybe those anxiety dreams weren’t terribly far-fetched. I had a lot of doubts about a lot of things. But I went home that day and thought “Man, I really enjoy high school”.

     The next day, I went in with some more confidence. I knew where to stand but still didn’t know what to do with my hands. The day was pretty mundane, and I heard the word “syllabus” an immense amount of times. I decided to buy lunch that day, to assert comfort with school upon myself. The process of buying lunch seemed relatively easy, I totally had it. The confidence that had disappeared on the first day was quickly coming back. After I picked out my share of green beans and whatnot, I went to put in my student ID. My hands didn’t shake, and my heart didn’t pound. The first time I put it in it didn’t work. I tried it again. It didn’t work. And then my heart started pounding again. During that week I found that the silliest things would cause the most stressful situations. “It’s been acting funny all day,” the person working the register said. I nervously laughed because I knew it wasn’t the machine that was messing up, it was me. After a few more trials, I started to question if maybe high school was really the right career path for me and the lunch person did too. “What’s your name?” they said after I had held up the line for long enough. “Dagny Haglund,”. The lunch person wrote it down, we got it figured out, and I walked away. That experience was just another that disrupted the made-up and expected smoothness of my first week. I realized at that moment that I was still adjusting, and I was getting tired of adjusting.

     I got my student ID on Wednesday, and I finally started to feel that I was becoming a high schooler. There was so much power in being able to open a door. The little green light and the click of the door unlocking made me so happy. On Wednesday, I smiled under my mask every time I opened a door. I still do.

     Later on Wednesday, my head started to hurt and my vision started to get blurry. I knew what was coming, and it wasn’t something I wanted. I tried to bear through it, but 20 minutes into my English class, I couldn’t think over the pounding in my head. I had a migraine, and I didn’t want to miss class. I asked to see the nurse, but Nurse Graves was out. So, I sat in the dark of Dr. Fay’s office for what seemed like an hour. This was an unbearable experience, but I was treated with such kindness by people whom I didn’t know. I felt like I was part of a community. I felt like I belonged.

     I went home and missed two classes. The entire time I was home, my head raced with thoughts about all that I was missing at school. All I wanted was to be back. I realized I love high school. It’s stressful and makes me question myself, but I truly love it. Eventually, the migraine went away and I returned to school because I missed it so much.

     That evening the enormous amount of stress about the start of high school became apparent and alarming to me. I had been so worried about the unknown, that I made myself sick.

     The unknown continued throughout the week. Only time made it dissipate, and it is still quite prevalent. By the end of the week, it became obvious to me that I wouldn’t be an expert in a week. That it would take time, that it would be scary for a while. By Friday, I had completely fixed my sleep schedule, kept my plants watered, and had done my homework. I had adjusted as well as I could have. By Friday, all I could think about was school. The four-day weekend seemed overwhelming. What was I supposed to do for four days without school? Its desultory and lack of structure was unapproachable, I thought. But what was truly overwhelming was not being in school. 

     I realized as I walked to school on Wednesday that the sunrise was still pretty, that I wasn’t just emotional. High school is weird and wonderful, and I’m not just nervous anymore. I love high school. I love the uncertainty, the stress, the assignments. I love the people, the course material, the freedom. On Wednesday, the weekend still felt like it always does on Friday nights. Not because it was long, but because I craved every moment of being at school. The first week of high school was something I never thought I could do. Then I did it, and everything was fine. The next four years will be just fine