I am an overworked, stressed-out 16-year-old who is having a miserable school year. Since I was a kid, I’ve been academically inclined and optimistic, so people assume I love high school. (I don’t!) How should I respond when people ask “How’s school going?” I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but I’m tired of answering with a chirpy “fine,” when everything is not fine. —M.S.

ANSWER “How’s school going?” is a wildly inventive and child-friendly variation on the empty greeting “How are you?” It’s just filler. And often, we don’t particularly care what the answer is. So if you’re sick of responding “fine,” go with “School is like everything else: good days and bad.” But frankly, I’m more concerned that you find someone helpful to talk to about your “miserable” year. We all go through rough patches, but we don’t have to do it alone. Promise me you’ll find one adult (a parent, teacher, counselor, uncle, or aunt) whom you will level with.

—Adapted from “Social Q’s” in The New York Times Magazine