Across the country, thousands of schools have experienced the graduation of millions of high school seniors. As I attended a graduation this spring, I thought back to my alma mater, Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tenn. Sometimes, people will ask, “If you could go back to high school, would you do anything differently?” My answer is, “You betcha!”
So, for the benefit and amusement of those who will be entering or returning to high school this fall, I offer the following musings about what I would do differently:
1. I would be more serious about football. While I do not think I could have been a starter in my sophomore and junior years (Dennis Larkin was simply too good and was a great center), I believe that, if I had worked harder, been more competitive, more aggressive, and taken more seriously the off-season workouts, I would have gotten more playing time.
After Dennis graduated, I started as center my senior year but I think I could have been a better asset to the team if I had been more committed.
2. I would have been less serious about “going steady.” Back in the day, it seemed that everyone “had” to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Looking back, I think that was simply the result of a lot of insecurity. Instead, I would have dated more and gone steady less — if at all.
I think it would have been better to date different girls (assuming any of them would go out with me) and to have simply enjoyed the social and dating experiences. I think I could have done without the drama and heartbreak of high school romances. Besides, only 1 percent of high school romances survive.
3. I would have studied more. There were reasons why I didn’t crack the books very often, but all those reasons seem silly and short-sighted now. I had the ability to have graduated near the top of the class instead of “summa cum barely.” Not studying in high school made for some rough days in college.
4. I would have made more friends. I had a pretty good circle of friends and a trip through the old high school annual revealed comments from students that indicated that I was thought to be friendly, maybe even popular, among some.
However, I wish I had been friends to the students that didn’t seem to have many friends. High school can be either rewarding or it can be agony. I wish I had noticed others more than I did.
5. I would have attempted more. I always regretted that I didn’t run for student office. The only reason I didn’t try was fear — fear of failure, fear of rejection.
In fact, fear keeps most people from trying something new. If you lose, then you lose. But there are rewards in the attempt. Oh, and I would have tried out for parts in school plays, too.
6. I would not tolerate bullies. I was bullied for most of my elementary school days and part of my junior high days. For the most part, I stood my ground by the ninth grade, but the one regret of my sophomore year is that I didn’t smash Dickie Gaynor (not his real name) in the face.
For some reason, he and I had a run-in behind the gym and he punched me in the nose. I was afraid that if I retaliated I might get expelled or dismissed from the football team. So I walked away to his mocking and jeering.
Although I stood up to would-be tough guys after that, I always saw that incident as a personal failure. Even today, I will not tolerate bullies. But I also wish I had defended some of my weaker classmates from those who make themselves feel big by hurting someone small.
7. I would have spent more time enjoying the journey. High school comes only once, if one does it correctly, and then it passes into memory. The memories can be sweet or bitter but they last forever.
While I enjoyed high school, I wish I had lingered more on each day, savoring what it had to offer. I wish I had attended more athletic events, more plays, more concerts, and I wish I had joined a few more clubs.
And I wish I had thanked and appreciated my teachers and coaches who really did impact my life even though I am sure they did not think so at the time.
But one cannot go back. One can, however, go forward, learning from the past and turning old regrets into future opportunities. After all, as the saying goes, “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” Enjoy it and use it wisely.[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is also the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]