How Has High School Influenced Your Identity?

Our high school experiences can’t help but influence our life and identity, and that’s true of practically everyone.

The reason is that at the time that we are approaching or in high school, we are in the process of maturing, emotionally, physically, and mentally. We are discovering who we are, what we like and don’t like, what we can or can’t do, and so on.

That it happens to coincide with spending 7+ hours a day in a building together with the same group of peers and teachers means those people and experiences will take on a profound meaning.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What makes you you?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What gives a person value?’


For some people, high school is full of growth and liberation, a time of discovery. For others, it might be a time of persecution. You can discover there are others like you, or that you are alone.

Are there traits or behaviors that you have today that you can trace to an experience you had in high school? How has high school influenced your identity?

Related questions: High school or college? Why do we like what we like? How have you changed? What was the best time in your life? How do you learn?

Thanks to Ingrid Moon for the question.

4 thoughts on “How Has High School Influenced Your Identity?”

  1. Until my senior year, high school was not the kindest environment for me, impacting me in several ways. That said, I’m going to focus on the positives here

    First, I never thought of higher education as an opportunity. My family was quite poor, and no one had attended college in my family before. Thankfully, my high school guidance counselor firmly encouraged me to apply to several universities. My grades were excellent, and she knew that I would be eligible for several forms of assistance to make college a possibility. Second, I had a talent for running, managing to make it onto the varsity cross-country and track teams. I continued to run for many years after high school. In my thirties, I trained for and ran seven marathons and several half marathons. Running still comes naturally to me. Third, and most impactful, I started to learn about homelessness as a topic for forensic competitions; I participated in extemporaneous speech. This interest grew throughout my time in high school. In college, I joined a group that trained me on the skills of organizing and how I might address homelessness issues systemically. Within a handful of years out of college, I became the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. I’ve spent most of my career focused on systemic approaches to getting and keeping people stably-housed in housing they can afford and provides them services if needed. And finally, ever since high school I’ve identified myself as a cheerleader — I just can’t do many of the stunts anymore.

  2. One of the best things to come out of high school, for me, was the fact that I attended a small school in rural Minnesota. This was important because with a small population of students to draw from (my graduating class was 65 people, and K through 12 was all housed in one building) the various school programs needed bodies in order to function.

    Because of this, there was very little competition to join any extracurricular activity you were interested in. If you wanted to act, for example, you could be on the school play. You might not be the lead role, but you were all but guaranteed to get a part.

    In fact, not only was there no competition for these clubs and groups, they were often actively trying to recruit people to join.

    As a result, I did a lot of activities that I wouldn’t have been able to participate in if I had gone to a larger school. I was on the cross country track team, even though I was incredibly slow and finished last in just about every race I ran in. I played in the stage band and sang in the madrigal choir, even though I was a mediocre musician at best. I was in plays, and on the speech team, and edited the school newspaper, was part of the school lit mag, and on and on.

    I was better at some of the activities than others of course, but I learned to find something that I was good at or enjoyed about each one.

    As for how that impacts me now, I find that I am more willing than many of my friends to try something new. And if I’m not immediately good at something, I can still find pleasure in some aspect: being part of a team, or figuring out some bit of strategy, or discovering some aspect that is similar to something else that I know, and so on. One of my friends has nicknamed me “Ready” because I’m always ready to do whatever comes up.

    I read widely, and I find things that seem completely different and unrelated often have aspects that are actually alike, and it is always a thrill when I discover one of them. And that I chalk up to my experiences doing lots of activities in high school (and college, but that’s not technically part of the question).

  3. High school was a miserable experience for me. I was bullied mercilessly. It fueled my depression and anxiety and I developed chronic migraines and insomnia which I still suffer from today.

    1. I feel for you, Cecily. Depression and Anxiety are brutal, as was high school. Take care, my friend.

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