Roadkill Goldfish

8 things every high school freshman needs to hear NOW

One of the best things about high school? School spirit. IMAGE: The Prowl

Learning about school spirit is easy. Learning about the stuff that really matters is a bit harder. IMAGE: The Prowl

Today’s freshmen aren’t told the whole truth about high school and life after graduation. Here are the 8 things they really need to know.


My daughter starts high school next week, and she’s already stressed out.

Why? Freshman orientation did her in.

In their efforts to inspire impressionable teens toward greatness, the principal and teachers scared the snot out of them. The kids were excited with all the talk about pep rallies, clubs, sports and other activities at school; however, the enthusiasm died when the topic turned to academics.

These 14-year-old Texas kids, who can’t decide what they want to wear in the morning, were told to decide what college they wanted to attend. The next four years are to be used to prepare for that particular college, and their ultimate fate would be determined by their class rank, overall grade point average and number of Advanced Placement classes they took.

I looked at my daughter and rolled my eyes. As a college instructor, I knew the school officials’ intentions were good, but the information was bad. Actually, it was a lot of unnecessary hype.

Here’s the important stuff they missed:

 1. College is not the only option.

According to the Department of Labor, there are 3 million jobs out there that companies are having a hard time filling. These positions don’t require people to shell out $100,000 in tuition money or postpone a real paycheck for four years to get them. These jobs are in skilled trades, and apprenticeships and vocational training can provide students with the training they need for careers that are always in demand.

College is expensive, and sadly, a degree does not come with a promise of employment upon graduation. The demand for workers with art, history or literature degrees has always been small, and it’s nearly microscopic today.  Even people with popular “job ready” degrees like finance, management, education and marketing are having a hard time finding work and an even harder time paying off student loans and other college debts.

2. Don’t stress about your GPA.

The only people who will ever see your high school grades are college admission officers, and they know grades are not an accurate indication of your real talent or intelligence. Contrary to what you may have been told, college acceptance is not based on your high school grades. They’re just part of the equation in higher education, but factors such as SAT or ACT test scores, extra-curricular activities, part-time employment, life experience and volunteer work carry a whole lot more weight.

3. Learning about people is just as important as learning in the classroom.

THE most valuable skill you can pick up in high school has nothing to do with what’s taught in the classroom. You’re going to meet adults and peers who don’t share your background, beliefs, life experiences and interests. Rather than writing them off, it’s important to take the time to build relationships. Get outside your comfort zone. Don’t judge; simply ask questions and listen. Be compassionate.

The ability to communicate and interact with others will serve you well for the rest of your life. Judgmental attitudes and poor social skills, not so much.

4. Failure is good for you.

You are going to fail at some things, and those failures may sting a little bit. Notice I said “sting” and not “destroy.” Learn to gracefully accept your mistakes, learn from them and move on. The lessons we learn from failure are the very things that lead us to success.

You’re not alone in failure. Author J.K. Rowling was told not to quit her day job, and 12 publishers rejected her manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Her seven books about the boy wizard ended up becoming the best-selling book series in history. Basketball player Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team and has confessed to missing more than 9,000 shots and losing almost 300 games during his career with the NBA. Nonetheless, the NBA still regards him as “the greatest basketball player of all time.”

Not bad for a couple of screw-ups, eh?

5. Take time to notice people.

Some kids go through the entire day without anyone acknowledging their existence. No one says hi, smiles at them in the hall or talks to them during class. To make matters worse, the only ones who do notice them use those interactions to bully or belittle them.

Take the time to notice others. Talk to the people who sit near you in class, especially the quiet folks. Smile when you pass someone you recognize. Your little kindness may be the only good thing a person experiences that day, and sometimes, your kindness may be the only thing keeping them going.

6. Get a part-time job.

Somebody’s got to say this. Your parents cannot and should not provide you with everything you want. If they do, you will never learn how to take care of yourself or manage money. Unfortunately, many people never learn that lesson when they’re young, and they grow up with a distorted sense of entitlement or encounter debt from foolish choices.

A part-time job during high school can provide you with the money you need to take purchase the things you want and save for future needs like a car, college or trade school. A job also helps you learn how to budget your time, develop leadership skills and handle responsibility – all of which are critical for whatever you choose to do after graduation.

7. Take classes that interest you.

Every school has a core group of classes that everyone must take in order to graduate. Get those out of the way, but when it comes to your electives, study whatever interests you.

Don’t buy into the lie that your schedule needs to be crammed with AP or accelerated courses so you’ll be ready for college. Do that, and you won’t be ready for life. This is the time to try things in different areas so you can determine what you like and dislike as well as where your real talents lie.

Culinary arts or a second year of chemistry? No contest, you’re going to have to feed yourself in a few years and you can’t make palatable foods with a Bunsen burner.

Child development or another foreign language class? You may never travel to Paris and speak French with the locals; however, you will have to understand toddler-speak when you become a parent.

Mechanics or marketing? You’ll never be broke or stranded if you understand how things work and how you can fix them. Marketing folks are often broke and stranded along highways.

8. Be a teenager.

You’re not an adult yet, so don’t feel like you have to live like one. Frankly, adulthood is over-rated. None of us really likes working full-time, paying bills and being legally responsible for everything we do.

Don’t rush to try drugs or alcohol. Your developing brain isn’t physically able to handle their effects, and intoxication via booze or drugs really isn’t as cool as you think it is. It’s also dangerous, and just for the record, illegal.

And sex? Please wait. Even though you may be physically ready, you may not be emotionally ready. There are physical risks like STDs and unplanned pregnancies. However, the most devastating consequences of early sexual involvement don’t involve your body, they involve your heart and mind.

There is a powerful emotional component involved in sexual intimacy, especially for women. It hurts when your sexual partner breaks up with you, spreads rumors, talks about your relationship with others, or worse yet, pretends you no longer exist. Doesn’t high school give you enough drama to deal with?

Even though it seems like EVERYONE is doing it, a recent survey of American high school students revealed that only 47 percent of students have reported having sex. That means that 53 percent have not and a good 20 percent of the non-virgins were lying just to look cool.

To my daughter and the rest of the class of 2018 – You have my permission to live for today and not freak out about what may or may not happen down the road.

Go to football games AND the girls’ basketball games. Be in the audience on the school play’s opening night. Don’t run away from the yearbook photographers. Get to know your teachers.  Do your best.

Oh yeah, and hug your parents every once in a while. That will help us get through the next four years, too.

Readers share their cancer stories with Roadkill Goldfish



It’s a club no one wants to talk about and no one wants to join. However, more than 760,000 people from around the globe came together on Roadkill Goldfish to acknowledge their membership, share their stories and offer each other support.

I have been absolutely awed by the response “What your friends with cancer what you to know (but are afraid to say)” has received. When I wrote the post, I had no idea that it would touch so many hearts. I was simply writing about my personal experience and feelings about my cancer diagnosis and treatment; however, I soon learned that many others felt the same way.

Here are some of their stories:

My sister thought I was brave, but I wasn’t.
Megan’s story (Massachusetts)

I had papillary thyroid cancer 8 years ago… About 6 months ago, I was talking to my sister and she said, “You were so brave.” I loved that she thought I was brave, but I really wasn’t. Surgery and treatment were just the means I had to go through to collect the reward in the end.

After dealing with this by myself for so long, I finally broke down and cried tears of relief.
Margie’s story (Zimbabwe)

I have breast cancer and have been going through the whole program. .. All through this I have been telling my friends that I am fine and can get through all this without having to cry on shoulders, hide away, rely on anyone. This week I just fell to pieces and didn’t want my friends to know that, but they found out anyway. When I told them I feel very stupid for crying, they all tried to assure me that it was not a sign of weakness and then my very best friend in Harare, Zimbabwe sent me your link. I read it through the tears that were pouring out of my eyes. They were tears of relief really. All the tears that I had saved up over the months and months. Thank you so much for this piece. Now I know.

My friend won’t be getting a “call if you need anything” from me.
Andrea’s story (Illinois)

One of my good friends called me last week to tell me she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was thinking after the phone conversation that I didn’t say “call me if you need anything.” After reading your list, I am now glad I didn’t say that and will call her instead for a walk in the woods or afternoon tea.


I didn’t call because I didn’t want to bother them.
Harriet’s story (Texas)

I have had to face cancer with my husband and my mom, and have known of quite a few others with this monster in the past few years. .. I have a beautiful friend who had cancer before I met her and kicked its butt, but has been recently told she has advanced untreatable pancreatic cancer and is dying. She is brave and strong but is fading. When I read Kim’s statements about people saying call me if you need me I wanted to cry, because that’s what I say (and I mean it) and even with dealing with my husband’s cancer, people told me the same thing and I would have and did not call and ask anyone for help because I didn’t want to bother them. I cried because I say the same thing but if I don’t (and I never have) get called, I assume they have all the help or company they want or need. God forgive me….This information is great for any illness that anyone is facing, I learned to act and not wait to be invited to help out another person.

I still have cancer even though I don’t look sick.
Mikki’s story (Indiana)

Please don’t tell me that because I look fine I am cured. Or worse, those who even question I have cancer because I don’t look sick. I have two different types of cancer and one is not curable. I don’t need anyone telling me the doctors are mistaken because I look so good. Trust me; doctors do not go around telling people they have cancer just for fun. It is hard enough to deal with cancer when you have others say the doctors must be wrong because I don’t look sick. And worse, (yes this did happen and from my own mother!) don’t tell me I obviously don’t have cancer because otherwise I would be dead. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?


My daughter still reaches out to others after her cancer death.
Marianne’s story (Illinois)

It is as though these words were coming from my daughter’s mouth. She died May 7 after six years LIVING with breast, bone, liver cancers. The fourth of six children, she ate healthy, rarely drank, did not smoke, exercised daily and should have had a long life. 41 is young. We were blessed to have her in our family’s journey. She was an awesome daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and is so deeply missed.

Her wish was to do a Celebration of Her Life. I wish you could have been there. Over 400 people there, joyfully, tearfully sharing her life with them. She continues to send us signs, yes, we believe, rainbows, angels, recipes of her favorite dessert in two new magazines, dork fish. When diagnosed with bone cancer, she promised a barren friend, same age, if she died before the friend got a baby, she would send her one. One week. May 14, baby Owen on his way. Now two months old. So sad.


My friend has kidney cancer; please pray.
Candace’s story (Kansas)

This article came at the right time for me; I have a very close friend to me that is dealing with a very aggressive kidney cancer. She is only 33 and a wife and mother to 3 children…. She was the best friend I needed and it turned out she needed me, too! She is a wonderful woman- brave, loving, daring, inspiring, dedicated and outgoing! So much I could say about her! I guess what I do wanna ask the most for is, please pray for her!! The doc told her she is terminal. Please put my friend on a prayer list! I love her so much and I know one day I’ll have to love her from a far…

“Brave” implies that we had a choice and decided to pick the harder path.
Emilie’s story (Holland)

I really appreciated the article that you posted about people dealing with cancer, and although I don’t have cancer, I really connected with what the you had to say because I deal with chronic illness.

One of the things that pisses me off most in the world is when people label others who are fighting a disease as “brave.” “Brave” implies that we had a choice, and decided to pick the harder path. There really is no alternative, unless it is something way sh_ttier than the treatment, but really, who is going to pick something like that?

My other big issue with the word brave is that it implies that the world is so intolerant of those who are not healthy or perfect- which it can be. Someone might see a girl struggling through chemo who lost her hair and think- “Oh, she is so brave.” But why does she have to be brave? Because society is intolerant and shies away from all things unwhole? I do feel like brave can apply to people battling illness in some ways though. If they go above and beyond what they need to do on a daily basis in order to raise awareness or share their story, then I think that they are brave. They had a choice and elected to do more than necessary for the bettering of society.

We’re living overseas and my preschooler has leukemia.
Jeff’s story (Belgium)

A friend of mine shared your post which I shared on Facebook. I’m a US citizen currently living in Belgium and my three year daughter has leukemia. She was diagnosed in May and we are getting excellent care. Cancer is hard enough as a family, but it also adds a layer when you are an expat. Through all of this, we will be stronger and better.

This is harder for my family than it is for me.
Diane’s story (Texas)

I have tried to put into words this very sentiment for SO very long. I am strong, but you don’t see the tears on purpose. I know this is harder for my family than it is for me, I know I will be pain free and taken care of eventually, possibly sooner rather than later. I cry, but if you see me cry, how much worse does that make you feel. So I laugh instead, I make jokes; I pretend to feel fine when I want to crawl in a dark room and pull the covers over my head. Spot on, great job!! Good luck.

Caregivers feel like they have to be strong, too.
Bonnie’s story (Maryland)

Thank you for taking the time to write this. As the wife and caretaker of a stage 4 lung cancer patient, I’ve thought these thoughts a hundred times, but have not made the commitment of time to put them “on paper.” Why? I think you said it….I always want to appear strong…for myself – for my husband. Even when I’m screaming inside. So thanks for saying what needed to be said!

After loved ones’ deaths, I learned to never take anything for granted.

Rich’s story (California)

I made a lot of mistakes with my brother’s cancer, I did a few things different with my mom’s cancer and my sister’s cancer. I got to be somewhat of an expert with my friend’s cancer. Sorry to report, none of them made it through this horrible disease. A couple of things that I have learned. Never take anything for granted, tell the people in your life how important they are to you and have a sense of humor. Thank you for writing what you did, it no doubt helps future patients and friends.

I wanted to be as normal as possible.
Bruce’s story (Indiana)

One thing I told everyone after my treatment was over and I had won, is I did everything I did for that year, to be as normal as possible. I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t want understanding, because few could, I just wanted to be treated like I was before all that mess started. I was still a human being with things to do, a family to take care of and a job to do. Thank God and dozens of prayer warriors, all my doctors and nurses, I’m here to share this with you. You will be, too, just hang tough, trust God, your doctors and nurses. You’ll make it.

Whatever time we do have, we need to enjoy it.

Jamie’s story (Georgia)

Cancer can prove to be quite challenging as we all live in fear that the cancer could come back. However, whatever time we do have, we need to enjoy it.

I don’t procrastinate as much, and if I want to do something, I do it. Life is a gift and I’m trying to do new things all throughout the year such as going kayaking with my breast cancer support group. They are talking of going and I definitely want to be on board. I don’t take anything for granted as I know life could change so quickly. I wish you the best and will be praying for you. I had 4 founds of chemo + 33 radiation treatments, but feel God has healed me. I remain positive and try to encourage my fellow survivor sisters as you have to believe as you continue on your journey. God Bless You.


Please check out other cancer stories in the comment sections of “What your friends with cancer want you to know”
and “Please share your cancer story or honor a loved one.”



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You can win this zip-top organizing utility tote during the August subscriber giveaway. See details below.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a ton of stuff to carry around on a daily basis.  And if you’re like me, all that stuff tends to get tossed into one messy and unorganized bag, and you end up dumping everything out just to find one item.

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