High school: that glorious time of growth spurts and raging hormones, zits and popularity contests, finding a way to fit in or struggling with standing out.

In other words, it’s a whole lotta stress.  Kind of like life out in the Real World.

1.  The popularity contest is alive and well.  Adults talk a good game about embracing each other’s differences, but when it comes right down to it who you know (and who knows you) still matters a great deal once you enter the Real World.  Running for office (or any sort of position), marshaling volunteers, lobbying for a raise or promotion – all these things can be greatly influenced by who you know.  It’s Homecoming King and Queen all over again.

2.  Money matters.  Do you need money to be happy as an adult?  No.  It makes living in the Real World easier, but happiness is an entirely separate issue.  However, S-T-U-F-F is still a big freaking deal.  What kind of car do you drive?  Where do you work?  Where do you live?  Own or rent?  Is it in the right zip code?  Have you got bling?  The latest phone?  Have you showered your kids with every blessed thing under the sun?  You thought kids getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays was high stakes, try being an adult in the business world today carrying a flip phone.

3.  High school was a petri dish prime for segregation: athletes, theater kids, cheerleaders, academic clubs, AP students, rich kid partiers, trailer park teens, loners, and on and on and on. There were as many ways to separate students in the cafeteria as there were lunch tables, and that doesn’t magically disappear once you’re in the Real World.  Adults just find more nuanced (read: less likely to be called out) ways to differentiate among ourselves.  Religion (even among Christian denominations), economic status, sexual orientation, political viewpoints…just a few of the polarizing categories for grownups these days.  Sad, but true.

4.  Caught in the hormonal maelstrom of the teen years, high school students find themselves embroiled in arguments about prom themes, locker location, or who stole whose best friend. Likewise, adults have extraordinarily strong opinions that can bring them to blows, metaphorically speaking.  Alcohol vs. spirits are the devil’s work.  Tattoos/piercings vs. this generation is a bunch of freaks.  And don’t even get me started on motherhood or politics – talk about a minefield of hot button topics.

5.  If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself scheduled into somebody else’s idea of your life. Algebra I, Algebra II/geometry, precalculus, calculus.  Earth science, biology, chemistry, physics. College degree, entry level position, marriage, promotions, kids, promotions, college tuition, stuck in the 9 to 5 grind, weddings, grandchildren, retirement…You have to look around once in a while to see where you are.  Otherwise you’ll wake up some morning and realize life happened while you were following The Plan.