This is the third in a series of profiles on Palo Alto High School teachers. In this edition, we sit down with English teacher Lucy Filppu. She reflects on her high school experience and gives advice to help students navigate the ups and downs of teen life.
Verde Magazine: What was your high school experience like?
Lucy Filppu: “I have mixed feelings about it. I was extremely popular, I was class officer; I majored in my social life, but I didn’t realize how smart I was. And I didn’t take my intellectual life seriously until I became an adult; unlike overachieving Palo Alto kids, I just went to high school and had fun, but I wish I had realized my intellectual capabilities, because I always second-guessed myself.”
VM: What was your best moment in high school?
LF: “Oh, I had a million. Despite the fact I suffered with some private issues, I loved all my friends. I hope Paly kids have as much fun as I did but can be as whole and real about who they are. It’s a tricky balance … My best friend and I both interviewed for a big scholarship, and we both got it. That was a big deal of us. Only two kids out of the school got it and we were the ones.”
VM: What was the hardest thing you went through as a teenager?
LF: “My hardest thing I went through as a teenager is I had an eating disorder in high school and in those days people were not talking about them. I suffered from bulimia, and I was not out about it, and I wasn’t getting the support I wish I could have received. I’m completely over it for a million years, but I wish we had more dialogue about helping teenagers under pressure.”
VM: What has changed about you since high school?
LF: “I’ve completely changed. I’m a whole, complete, peaceful woman. I’m very happy. I am so much happier today than I was as a high school student.”
VM: How have your values changed?
LF: “I’m a lot more ethical. I think I was far more shallow. I think I was far more interested in appearance versus reality. Athletics do not impress me; I’m just not as taken with the material world as I once was. I’m much more spiritual and centered now, and a lot comes with age.”
VM: Any advice for Paly students?
LF: “You really have to try to find people you can be honest with, and if you’re self-harming or doing anything to hurt yourself to deal with your anxiety, there’s a lot of resources out there to help and support you, and you don’t have to feel alone.”
VM: What is one piece of advice you would give to your teenage self?
LF: “Take your own creativity and life more seriously. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be the true and deepest you, and try at your deepest core not to look around so closely at what other people are doing. Focus on those parts of you that you pleasure, and try not to pay attention to other people.”