A Teen’s Guide To Being Lost After High School

By Rayiah Ross

You’d think that leaving high school and stepping out into the real word would be easy. You spend four years of your life waiting for the moment that you can walk across the stage and leave your adolescence behind only to realize that the real world is just another barrier that you somehow have to get over. I don’t know about anyone else’s experiences, but that barrier chills me to the bone. 

Many times in my life, it felt like everything was already planned out. I got good grades and paid attention in school so that I could get into a college in New York -something I had long dreamed of. I worked hard everyday to make my family happy and show the world that a black girl could do so much more with her big dreams, but something still felt off.

I learned that my routine of planning out everything could only get me so far in life. Mapping out my day was easy when I knew what high school teachers would test me on and what classmates I would spend time with. But how do you map out your life when you have no idea what comes next?… Now I know most of you reading this are thinking, “Don’t map it out! Roll with the punches and let life happen.” I’m not disagreeing with you there, but I think I’ve come up with a better solution. 

I am going to be daring. Not in the sense that I jump out of an airplane or dive off of a cliff, but rather in a way that I can incorporate it into my everyday life. I’ve thought long and hard about my obsession with ‘planning things out’ and I’ve decided that I should put those skills to use. 

Life Goals: a complete list of things I want to accomplish under no mental restrictions and no time limits, just for fun. Of course I could go on about how goals fuel ambition and give motivational energy pushes you forward, but I’d much rather focus on the importance of knowing what you really want in life. Knowing I wanted to be a writer since the 3rd grade generally sent me in one direction, and though it is one that I love, it is also the only one I know. By doing things that I might love or hate, I’m re-assessing my goals and figuring out what I really want in life. If there is anything that I learned in my high school economics class, it’s that there is always something to lose is every decision you make, so how do you play it both intelligently and safely? You make a list of tons of things you want to do so that you never miss out on anything. 


  1. Climb a mountain (like Dakota Johnson in How To Be Single)
  2. Play the piano in public (even though I have no idea how)
  3. Read poetry somewhere important
  4. Publish a book (working on it)
  5. Read 100 books in a year (My average is 70)
  6. Use a new word a day for a month
  7. Donate to charity
  8. Host a murder mystery party
  9. Attend a murder mystery party
  10. Vote! (everyone should do it by the way)
  11. Volunteer at a nursing home
  12. Volunteer and a food kitchen
  13. Have an in depth conversation about race/religion with someone of another race/religion
  14. Buy something I can pass on to my children
  15. Go on a long bike ride
  16. Mentor someone else
  17. Protest… again
  18. Take care of two plants without them dying
  19. Learn about illness from a patient’s own words
  20. Attempt to save the planet (a girl can dream)
  21. Distribute books to a jail/homeless
  22. … TBD


I’m going to leave the rest of my list unfinished, because I know that there is so much more for me to accomplish. I only hope that no matter where you are in life, you have a list of goals that keep you going. And if you’re anything like me and you like having your life mapped out, remember that some things are better left spontaneous and impromptu. There will always be a chance that I won’t accomplish half the things on this list, but there is also the possibility that I do it all. So I challenge anyone reading this to do something daring, because life is too short to be panicked over a barrier.


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