If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound? If a tree falls at Orcas High School does the sound last forever? To some high school students, this is a reality. Living on a tiny island is limiting to say the least: we are the proverbial fishbowl. But when every choice we make can easily become public knowledge, it feels like the potential to be judged and branded for our mistakes is absolute. In a larger town, you can blend in with the crowd and get by under the radar if you choose, which I can only imagine must be freeing. But on in our small community, every little slip is put under a magnifying glass for all to see and for all to remember.
Many students feel you have to make a choice: you can either be the “No Future” kind of kid who gets to have fun in high school and make mistakes before they are life altering, or you can be the “No Fun” kid who in theory will go further in life at the cost of four years of self-imposed isolation and probable depression. One might think it is impossible for the judgment on young students to be that harsh, but I can assure if anything I’ve understated it. According to a nationwide survey performed by SADD, 82% of all high school students attend “non-sanctioned” parties at some point in their high-school years. On Orcas Island if one attends one of these parties, you risk your reputation, your involvement in sports, and possible school sanctions. Those who hope to attend a university of any reputation or make something out of their lives are therefore forced to avoid such gatherings.
So we have two choices: fit in or be quiet and alone. Those of us who choose to keep to ourselves have to endure not only the ensuing four-year cold-shoulder that we receive from classmates, but also run the risk that our social capabilities will be stunted and our self-consciousness will follow us for the rest of our lives. We bide our time and wait to enter the “real world” where every move is not under scrutiny and we are allowed to be less than perfect.
So the next time you hear about something a kid did the other day, instead of just blacklisting said kid, think about it. Was it really all that bad? Do they really deserve your scrutiny? Or were they just being a kid?
Maybe take into account the enormous pressure put on young adults today–at the age of 14 when we enter high school, we are supposed to be planning for college by building a resume of not only good grades, but sports and extracurricular activities, community service, and leadership. This is not easy for even the brightest and most extroverted of kids, but imagine the pressure weighing down a shy kid, an introvert, or one who maybe is not the 4.0 candidate. The pressure to do well and succeed is one tracked–if you don’t go to college, you are some kind of failure already. Add to that the feeling that any misstep will brand you forever and it is no wonder that 1 out of every 5 teens suffer from depression. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so let’s make sure the same village isn’t tearing down its children. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be judged for the tiniest of mistakes, so try to remember; there is always more to the story than you hear about.