A Letter to my former self…

Dear Jack,

Congratulations, you have finally finished middle school and are ready to enter a new challenge at DePaul Prep for high school! A lot will change in the next four years in ways you would never guess, but I promise they will all be essential in creating the man you will become. I want to challenge you to leave your comfort zone and expand your horizons — I promise it will pay off. Before you start next year as a freshman, however, there are some tidbits of knowledge I want to leave you with, starting with what Dad told me in the second week of my first year, “It’s nothing like the movies.” That said, high school is a period of time where you can start to write your own story and create your own path, and I wrote down some of the things I learned while I was creating mine.

  1. Don’t compromise who you want to be to please someone else. If they aren’t satisfied with you as you are, they don’t deserve to affect your decisions.
  2. Never skip reps! It may sound cliche but the only person you’re hurting by ditching reps is yourself. This is a pet peeve for both coaches and teammates. Even if you never play a sport this applies to you too, as giving minimal amount of effort of schoolwork or projects will only hurt you and your grades, so it is in your best interest to always put your best foot forward.
  3. Give everyone a chance, even if they don’t deserve it. High school is often an emotionally charged time, and the choices that you or others may make will not always be an accurate representation of you or that person. Holding a grudge will do nothing beneficial in the long run.
  4. Beware of the dangers of the Internet. Social media is a great tool for keeping in contact with friends from all over the country and the world, but it can also be a dangerous place if misused. Remember that everything you post is permanent and others will not always share your point of view.
  5. Start thinking about your future early. This is vital, especially in times like these. Unfortunately, I know many seniors who are unsure of their plans for next year, whether that may be for a college or a career. Many seniors are struggling now because they started the college search process late and now cannot go visit their schools or try to earn their scholarships. Start making your list early in your junior year, and allow yourself to change it and be flexible. College is only four years, but it can be the best four years of your life if you take the process seriously.
  6. It is always okay to ask for help. Believe it or not, you are still a kid, and growing up is not easy for anyone. If you look around there will be people around you to pick you up if you fall.
  7. Never underestimate the task in front of you. I unfortunately learned this one the hard way. The best teams only lose when they look past the opponent right in front of them. Keep your eyes fixed on the task at hand and it will help you overcome issues with time management and motivation, which will be crucial as you move on to college.
  8. Disagreement is inevitable. Over the next four years, you will interact with mostly the same people on a daily basis. There is a slim possibility you can make it through those years without making at least one person angry. The key is to not let the disagreement consume the relationship and try to move past it in a healthy way. So many disagreements could be ended if more people effectively communicated with each other.
  9. The best memories are never planned. This is not an advertisement to completely abolish all sense of organization you have. That said, sometimes a change in plans can be the best thing to happen to you. The thrill of going against the norm and enjoying your time with your friends is a hard emotion to top. However, there are cases where a change may be dangerous and it is on you to recognize that. Don’t be afraid to go with the flow, but always remember you and your safety come first.
  10. Enjoy every moment. High school is an essential time period for growth. It allowed me to discover more about who I am and will no doubt do the same for you. The friends I have made will be with me for life, and the memories I made, good and bad, will be a special part of me that I hope I never lose. High school is what you make it, so make mistakes, take (some) risks and allow yourself to leave your comfort zone. I promise you’ll thank me one day.

I could write on and on all day. There is so much I want to say, but I can’t find the right way to say it. My high school experience profoundly changed me in more ways than even I can recognize, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. While my high school days are over, I want you to make the best of yours in your own unique way, and I hope that their experience allows you to grow and change the way I did. While I am not sad that my high school days are over, I am grateful for all of the lessons I have learned along the way and hope that you use my experiences as a way to guide yours.

Always with Love,

Jack Mueller