Dear High Schoolers of Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties,
I'm Fr. Bryan, and I'm the Catholic priest at St. Rose in Longview, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Kelso, St. Mary's in Castle Rock, and St. Catherine's in Cathlamet. Here is a picture of me and my intramural soccer team from college (#champions). I couldn't find a picture of me from high school, so this was the closest I could get. I'm in the bottom row all the way to the right.
Even though I haven't met most of you, I want you to know that I pray for you and your families and read about many of your accomplishments in the Daily News. So many of you make me proud to be part of this community.
I want to take a moment to welcome all of you back to your respective schools this week and offer you some encouragement as you head into the new school year. I specifically want to encourage you to work hard (which I know you do) and take advantage of this opportunity you have to be educated. I also want to encourage you in some other ways. Specifically, here are some things I wish I knew when I was in High School.
Your experience in high school does not have to define you as an adult: In high school there are always popular people and less popular people. Ten years after high school some of the popular people will be less popular and some of the less popular will be the happiest and most successful. It’s just the way it works. So if you don’t like the way people think of you or treat you now, just know that this is can be temporary. If you are among the more popular students and enjoy the way things are going, don’t think it will always be like that either. What will make you a happy and well liked adult is that you treat people well and develop the skills to act like an adult. So please treat your classmates and teachers with respect and don't do anything you'll regret later. This leads me to my next point:
Enjoy High School, but move on when it’s over: I enjoyed my time in high school. I went to Sehome High School in Bellingham, where I played soccer. I loved going to football games and basketball games. I loved being around my friends most of the day. Overall, my experience was very positive and I didn't want it to end. I was sad when it finally did.
But high school isn’t supposed to last forever and that is good because life after high school can be way better. It might be harder in some ways, but life can be much more meaningful and fulfilling when you are committed to your family, or your job, or some other positive endeavor. Some of you might go off to college and it will be easier to move on. Some of you, however, will stay home for a while and it will be a little more difficult to move on from your high school life. Enjoy this experience for what it is, but try to avoid acting like a high schooler into your adult years. It might sound fun to stay young, but there are more fulfilling things on the horizon for each one of you if you are open to them.
Please don’t say or do anything stupid on social media: No, Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist when I was in high school (or college) and I’m glad. I made some mistakes in high school. I said and did some things I regret now. Thankfully, these were not documented on social media and I was able to move on from them. Please know that mean things you say or do on twitter and instagram can come back to haunt you. Even if you delete them, people can screenshot them and use them against you in the future. The best way to avoid that is to not say or do anything stupid or rude or mean at all, and if you already then stop.
Finally, don’t forget to spend time with your family: When I was in high school I spent more time at my friends' houses than I did my own home. I thought that I would be best friends with some of these guys my whole life, but it just wasn’t true. I barely see the guys I hung out with so much. Yes it was fun, but I regret blowing off my family to hang out with them so much. Yes, your family is probably embarrassing, but you aren’t going to care that they are embarrassing in a few years. You’ll wind up appreciating them and you will likely be spending a lot more time with them in the future than your high school friends. Don't take for granted the opportunities that you have right now to grow closer to your parents and your brothers and sisters.
I hope and pray you will all have a great year of school.