Find Your Feet: (The 8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Left High School)

Find Your Feet: (The 8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Left High School)

by Rebecca Sparrow


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Find Your Feet: (The 8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Left High School) by Rebecca Sparrow

Everybody knows finishing high school and deciding what to do next can be tough. Should you go to college? Get an apprenticeship? Or just travel the world?

After high school, there are all-new pressures such as budgets, living away from home, making choices about a career you aren’t sure of, relationships, eating well, making friends . . . the list goes on. So how do you get through it? From the bestselling author of Find Your Tribe (And Nine Other Things I Wish I'd Known in High School) comes the follow-up book, Find Your Feet (The 8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Left High School), a practical, humorous, guide for girls to help them navigate their post–high school years and beyond. This little book will be invaluable and a must-read for those who need a little help in surviving the years after school.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780702249624
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Rebecca Sparrow is the author of Find Your Tribe (And Nine Other Things I Wish I'd Known in High School), The Girl Most Likely, Joel & Cat Set the Story Straight, and The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay. She writes a weekly column for popular website

Read an Excerpt

Find Your Feet

The 8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Left High School

By Rebecca Sparrow, Elizabeth Lamb

University of Queensland Press

Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Sparrow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7022-5082-8


Who you are in high school is not who you are for the rest of your life

There are two big things I remember about high school: truly ridiculous amounts of homework and being labelled. Do these sound familiar? You're the sports star or the geek or the loner or the teacher's pet or the gossip or the one who is always gossiped about. Or maybe you're the bully or the loudmouth or the school captain or a muso or a science lover or part of the cool group or the girl who spends her lunch hours in the library researching Japanese anime or the girl who seems to spend her entire life organising charity cake stalls and fashion parades. Maybe you did something in year 9 that people were still talking about in year 12. Or maybe it's what you didn't do that had people gossiping.

That can be the problem with high school. It's like being forced to live in Summer Bay for several years. It seems like everyone remembers everything. The place thrives on rumour and gossip. And it feels impossible to shake off a label once it's been superglued to your back. Thankfully, this doesn't last forever. It really doesn't.

The good news: once school ends you get to reinvent yourself

Some people – lots of people – feel tortured in high school because of the way they're perceived or misunderstood, or the reputation (deserving or not) they get stuck with. But here's the good news: whatever label was smacked on your head in high school can be peeled off when you walk out those gates for the last time. Think of it like an Etch A Sketch that gets wiped clean. Your reputation gets packed away along with your school uniform and textbooks.

See, the great thing about The Rest Of Your Life is that you get to reinvent yourself. And you get to reinvent yourself as many times as you like. A bit like Lady Gaga (except maybe without the meat dress).

Here's an example. A girl in my year 12 class who was seen as Mayoress of Dorktown transformed into this incredibly cool political science student after high school. She went to uni and suddenly found her tribe – other students who were into the same stuff that she liked (the student union, rallies, clever jokes about politicians that no one else understood). Her new friends were people who couldn't have cared less that she was always chosen last when we played basketball in high school. At university she found people who liked her for who she was.

You see many people blossom when they're given the freedom to be themselves.

The great thing about the real world is that you'll find yourself exposed to new ideas, philosophies and ways of seeing the world. After years of having to wear a uniform, adhere to regulation sock height and live by certain school rules – you'll have the freedom to experiment with different looks and ideals. And nobody is going to be hovering by waiting to give you a detention because your fringe is too long.

In exactly the same way, whoever you were in high school can also end on that last day of year 12. Maybe you're not that proud of how you behaved in high school (or the friends you were hanging around) but you felt trapped by a label and continued to play the role of the bully or the socialite or the brainiac. Well, the world outside of high school is full of people who don't know anything about you, so you get to start over. Sort of like being in a witness protection program (okay, not really). But my point is you get to start afresh with a clean slate (or Etch A Sketch). Learn from your mistakes. Decide what you want to do differently. Make a decision to be the best version of yourself that you can be and then go for it. It's never too late to change.

Lastly, the great thing about leaving high school is that those people you really, really didn't gel with – you never have to see again. Huzzah! Once you've graduated you can choose who you'd like to see each day. You can kiss the loudmouths or the mean girls goodbye (not literally ... that could be awkward). High school ending is really just the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life.

The not-so-good news: small fish in a big pond syndrome

While some people can't wait to finish high school and shrug off the labels assigned to them, other students may not be quite so keen to leave their glory days behind. I mean, what if you were school captain? Or voted The Girl Most People Want To Be Stranded With On A Deserted Island? What if you topped maths or biology and loved the fact that you were the smartest person in your class? Now what?

You can really struggle when your environment changes and you no longer have the status you had in high school. What I mean is, you become a small fish in a big pond (having spent maybe five years being a big fish in a small pond at high school). Maybe you were the smartest person at your school and now everyone in your first year science degree is like Sheldon in The big bang theory. Suddenly, nobody thinks you're special (well, except your nanna). But try to look at the positives – the pressure is off you a bit. You can actually relax instead of having to maintain the reputation of always topping chemistry or English. Or maybe what you were missing in high school was the challenge to push yourself. Suddenly, you're with a whole heap of other smart kids you can learn from. Maybe instead of being made to feel like a freaky genius, you can choose to revel in being around other students who love talking about politics and current affairs and who actually understand nuclear fusion. Accept that difference as a good thing.

Or perhaps you were extremely popular in high school and all of a sudden you don't have an entire school community in awe of you. Maybe at your job, people don't really notice you or give you any attention the way they did in year 12. Again, look at the positive. You no longer have the pressure of having to behave in a certain way. Let me get all Dr Phil for a second and remind you that you don't need to be the most popular person in the room to be happy. If you behave in a way that is kind and friendly, if you demonstrate integrity and compassion, and can laugh at yourself – you'll find your feet. And anyway, the more popular you are, the more people want a piece of you. Enjoy being part of the crowd for a change – sometimes it's a relief to have no expectations placed on you.

You are not defined by your year 12 results

Finally, let me repeat something I wrote an entire chapter on in Find your tribe (and 9 other things I wish I'd known in high school): your future success does not rely on your year 12 results.

For the first few months after high school your friends will probably be obsessed with knowing what results you (and everyone else) received but then they'll move on. A great result is fantastic (go you!) but is no guarantee that your life is going to be all ponies, kittens and rainbows. Long-term success is about being resilient.

In a similar way, a terrible result doesn't mean you're destined to be a failure either. So you bombed out? Okay, that sucks. But if you really want to chase a goal, you'll find another way to get there.

It's worth remembering that some people are late bloomers. A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow 'author) Kim Wilkins. Kim writes:

I was a late bloomer in every sense. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest dag in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food and typing jobs. In fact, I'd say that I didn't really blossom until my mid-20s. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven't looked back.

Let me tell you, Kim's being modest. Today she's an internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books. She's a university lecturer. She's won a University Medal. She's living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school. So if you too bombed out in high school ... don't despair. Tomorrow is another day. Just look at Kim.


Real life has real consequences

There are times at high school when it seems like the teachers are out to get you (or was that just me?). Caught talking in class? Go stand outside the room. Didn't do your French homework? Do double tonight. Found hiding in the Music Block when you're supposed to be running the compulsory school cross-country? You can think about what you've done while you weed the oval on Saturday. Nice. Um, not!

I wasn't even a troublemaker in high school and I still had my share of run-ins with the teachers over the years (including the time I got told off for talking in biology when my friend Katie was sitting behind me PLAYING A HARMONICA. Yes, I was talking in class. I think I was probably saying, 'Why is Katie sitting behind me PLAYING A HARMONICA?!'

It's possible I'm still a bit bitter ...

Of course if you get caught doing more extreme stuff – cheating, bullying, lying, smoking marijuana in the girls' locker room – then your punishment is going to be way more severe. You could get an automatic fail for the subject. Be thrown off a sporting team. Suspended from school. Or even expelled. None of which looks particularly good on your report card but which will make fabulous reading in your parents' annual Christmas email. Or not. Stuff up in a serious way and it's only going to cause you hassles with graduating and getting decent final leaving results. Not to mention enrage your parents.

You may not want to hear this but school is actually a fairly soft, sheltered environment. Wait. What? You heard it, sister. The punishments that get doled out to you in school aren't really that severe and the teachers are still far more concerned about your emotional well-being than they are about anything else. I know it may not feel like a warm and fuzzy environment when you're there weeding the oval at 7am on a Saturday morning when you'd rather be – I don't know, say ASLEEP – but believe me, once you leave high school behind you'll realise that real life has real consequences. Real consequences which are much more severe than a Saturday morning detention.

Alcohol, drugs and Schoolies Week

I wrote an entire chapter on this topic in Find your tribe (and 9 other things I wish I'd known in high school) but let me just remind you of this. When you binge drink or take illegal drugs it affects your brain's ability to function. In a nutshell, it means you're less able to make good judgement calls or spot a dangerous situation. When you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol you do things, go places and trust people you wouldn't normally. Binge drinking at Schoolies Week can be a seriously dangerous combination for young people. At best, you may end up falling down a flight of stairs, looking like a loser on the dance floor, experiencing a killer hangover or having a one-night stand with someone who drinks peach Bacardi Breezers and whose iPod is full of Rebecca Black tunes. At worst, you become tomorrow's headline. Whether you're going to Schoolies or just planning to have a big night out with your friends, stick with your tribe, know your limits, stay safe and pay attention.

Wag your uni lectures and your grades will suck. Skip work and you'll probably get fired

Okay, let's start with university and TAFE first.

I remember starting uni and the immense sense of freedom I felt being in a new environment and out of school. Finally, I was going to be treated like an adult. I could wear what I wanted. Go where I wanted. No more having to sit in classes all day, every day. When I started university I actually organised my timetable so that I had several days off every week. Even better, if I didn't turn up to my lectures or tutorials and wanted to spend all my time in the university Rec Club (or maybe, er, trying on dresses in Sportsgirl) nobody batted an eyelid. Hurrah! Which probably explains why I came oh-so-close to failing three subjects (yes, THREE) and nearly got booted out of university all together. Nice work, Bec. But it was the kick in the pants I needed to make me start taking my university course seriously.

Here's the thing. With freedom comes responsibility (dammit). So sure, you can spend all day talking about guys/politics/existentialism and nobody will come looking for you. No one will ask where you're meant to be. Instead, your tutors and lecturers will have less marking to do and you'll probably fail the subject. And then you'll probably have to repeat that subject meaning you'll potentially be at university for longer – it's usually an extra six months per subject.

Life post high school requires you to have some discipline. Discipline to actually attend your classes. Discipline to actually hand in your assignments on time and turn up to exams and pull your weight in group tasks. Unlike school, your university or TAFE tutors and lecturers don't feel emotionally attached to you. Hard to believe, I know. So when the time comes to give you a big fat ZERO for participation in tutorials or a giant FAIL on your exam paper – they will. And they do. All the time. You will be expected to turn up to class on time and part of your semester grade is usually based on attendance at tutorials. Yes, they often mark a roll at uni. And yes, you will be treated like an adult which means that excuses as to why you couldn't possibly hand in an assignment on time had better be good. You were sick? You'll need to submit a letter from your doctor. A family member died? The university usually asks to see a death certificate. No, I'm not joking.

And what about if you've chosen to leave school and do an apprenticeship or go straight into a job? In a similar way, you'll be expected to turn up on time. Not five minutes late. ON TIME. If you don't, you'll most likely be given a series of warnings and then if you continue to be late you'll probably get sacked.

Or maybe you turn up to your job on time but spend the majority of the day playing Angry birds. I get it. I do. Angry birds is very addictive. But still, you're being paid to, you know, WORK. Not play Angry birds. Or go on Facebook. Or update your Pinterest account with a to-die-for picture of Ryan Gosling dressed as Santa. So once again, you'll probably get sacked. Then you can spend all day playing Angry birds until you can no longer pay your mobile phone bill.

Act like a criminal and you'll be treated like one

Now there's no sugar coating this next bit. When it comes to illegal behaviour, well, it won't be tolerated at university, TAFE or your new workplace. Let's say you, oh I don't know, get caught stealing an iPad. At school you might get suspended after you've sat through a riveting two-hour lecture from Mrs Gordon on morals. In the real world things are much tougher. If you steal, the police will most likely be called. And you'll probably be charged – as an adult. In Queensland you are dealt with as an adult in the legal system once you turn 17. In all other Australian states and territories it's 18. But even if you're lucky enough not to get charged with a criminal offence you'll most probably be sacked. Why? BECAUSE YOU STOLE AN IPAD.

What about bullying and discrimination? According to the Australian Human Rights Commission website, Australia's anti-discrimination laws mean it is illegal to bully or harass someone based on their 'age, sex, pregnancy, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or certain other reasons' ( When it comes to physical violence and stalking, the victim can go straight to the police to get help. Are we having fun yet?

Once you've left school and you're out in the real world, you won't have that same caring support network of teachers. That lovely school guidance counsellor won't be there to talk to you. You can instead try to tell your side of the story to the magistrate or your lawyer or your new friend Bubba who shares your jail cell. Bubba, however, may not be such a great listener. Good luck with that.


Excerpted from Find Your Feet by Rebecca Sparrow, Elizabeth Lamb. Copyright © 2013 Rebecca Sparrow. Excerpted by permission of University of Queensland Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Also by Rebecca Sparrow,
When I left high school ...,
1: Who you are in high school is not who you are for the rest of your life,
2: Real life has real consequences,
3: Follow your dream. Just make sure you choose the right one,
4: There is power in being authentic,
5: Do work experience (and while you're there learn to make the coffee),
6: You teach people how to treat you,
7: Look after your body the way you'd look after your mobile phone,
8: Read. Travel. Volunteer,
Other stuff ...,

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