Smoke and Mirrors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of High School Social Life

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Photo Credit: Daniel Stein

Remaining steadfast to his beliefs, Andrew Brennan will graduate this year from GRHS. His values have guided his school work and social life.

by Andrew Brennan, News Editor

I have not imbibed alcoholic beverages, smoked, or used drugs while in high school. I’m neither here to preach nor praise myself, but rather just to reflect on my experiences, hopefully to the benefit of underclassmen.

My high school experience has been fulfilling but also one that hasn’t been terribly unique. I have studied hard at times, not so much at others, played sports, joined clubs and have endeavored to be a positive voice in our school. In high school, we have all gotten along pretty well, but we inevitably are divided by the sports we play, what we are interested in, etc. One distinction, however, that has been particularly troubling to me is the fact that many of us are divided based on whether we drink and smoke or don’t. To the parents and underclassmen who believe that Glen Rock is an ideal, Stepford-esque town, where students don’t drink and smoke and everything is rosy, there is more to the story. As I unfortunately learned about two years ago, a lot of students do things that quite simply they shouldn’t be doing. To me, though, this wasn’t just something that happened — it was a conscious lapse in judgment of people in our school, many of whom I was good friends with.

Throughout middle school and freshman year, I had a good group of buddies that I would hang out with. We would relish in playing football games on one of my friend’s lawn, going out for lunch, and playing video games. We were doing “normal things” and having a great time doing it because we enjoyed each other’s company. Over time, however, my best friends changed. Simply put, they started drinking and smoking until it became a part of who they were. Football games and lunch at John’s were replaced by smoking marijuana in a park.

These are people I still am on good terms with and will even hang out with occasionally. But it’s impossible to be truly friends with them because they are so embroiled in doing stupid things that it’s almost defined who they are. We all lose friends and gain new ones, (as I have) but I think it nothing less than tragic that I no longer can hang out with people that I have known so well for so long. Maybe some of you think I am being dramatic, that this is just part of high school life and that I should accept it. However, I cannot. Soon I’ll be out of high school, but I’ll always look on this aspect of my four years as a missed opportunity for me to have helped my friends and change things for the better.

The reasons I have decided to not partake in the activities that I have described above are my faith, the work of my parents, being educated about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and common sense on my part. I have stayed true to my principles and avoided this dangerous trend in spite of the consequences and have come out stronger on the other side. I have lost some good friends along the way, but I haven’t changed who I am, and I don’t regret it for one second. My advice to those younger than me who will invariably face the same choices that I did is to realize that you can live and be happy without it. You’ll value yourself more and, in the long run, be much better off for it.