The Student News Site of Olathe West High School

Emily Harter

As much as I would like to say I have always been the independent girlboss I am today, that would be a blatant lie. Throughout middle school I very much cared what my peers thought about me. I would always overanalyze what friend group I was in, who I wanted to have a crush on, even what shoes I wore. And as I was thrusted into this fish tank of roughly 1,600 kids, I carried those thoughts with me. It was like all of a sudden my feelings were magnified and it would be the end of the world if anyone disliked me or didn’t think I was “cool”. 

And then COVID hit my sophomore year. All of a sudden we were all sent into a life of seclusion and isolation. I loved it. Like everyone else, I hit a wall at first, but then I started finding ways to entertain myself. Walks, art, baking and watching movies were my new safe haven. This is where I learned that I can be OK spending time with myself and that I don’t constantly need other people’s company to keep me satisfied. The solitude gifted me this newfound sense of confidence in myself. 

As we slowly began going back into a regular life, I had a fresh take on how I viewed the world. All of a sudden I had a deeper respect and confidence in myself and I felt unbeatable.  Now that I was confident in myself, I began to work on the relationships with the people around me. During the pandemic I had lost a lot of friends that were not good for me anymore. But when we went back to school and through my job, I began to reach out to new people and mend old relationships which led me to have healthy new friendships. I learned that it is a waste to spend time with people who drain my energy rather than replenish it. 

As I went into my senior year, I was ready to have a good last year at Olathe West. I went into the year with the mindset that I would stay in the movement and not focus on the past or present too much. When I got accepted into KU and senioritis started to kick in, I just wanted to be done. But while a majority of my peers became sluggish and unmotivated, I worked even harder to get my assignments done early so I could focus on dorm planning and my future in Lawrence. I think because I was so focused on my future I began to lose touch of the present and did not participate in a lot of activities that in hindsight I wish I had gone to or participated in. 

During my senior year I did have more time to put energy into things that I like and that make me happy. Whether it was simply going on a walk or putting more of my energy into the newspaper, I always made an effort to either do something productive or something that made me happy that wasn’t just scrolling through TikTok. Learning how to utilize my free time was my most valuable thing that I self taught this past year. 

I am happy with the strong young women that high school has shaped me into. While you could not pay me to go back, there are not a lot of things about my experience that I would want to change. However I do wish I could tell my younger self a few things that I wish I had known before going into high school. 

  1. Learn how to find company in yourself. Go see a movie or go out to eat by yourself. It will not be the end of the world if you don’t always have someone around you and you’ll be better off for it. 
  2. Confidence is key. Wear what you want. Listen to whatever music you want. Like what or who you want with no shame because it does not matter what anyone else thinks of you. And hold your head high while you do it because as long as you appear confident it will eventually become true inside too. 
  3. Don’t waste your time on friends or people who make you feel drained. Life is short, spend it with people who make you happy and feel loved. 
  4. Make good use of your free time. You won’t get a lot of it and you shouldn’t waste it on mindlessly scrolling through your phone. 


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