But a decade from now, he actually wouldn't mind being right back where he started.
Smale, a swimmer, water polo and baseball player, is considering a career in high school teaching and coaching.
At Paly, perhaps?
"That would be awesome, but we can only wish for so much," he said.
The ever-upbeat senior class president — part of Paly's baseball program for three years until this spring when he traded baseball for swimming — puts a positive spin on Paly baseball's recent CCS championship without him.
"I was actually really happy for them because they're all my friends and I've played baseball with them for I don't even know how many years," he said.
"They deserved it."
As a member of student government, Smale was involved in organizing Paly's Spirit Week, as well as the school's recent prom.
"Prom was amazing — we got a lot of great feedback from it," he said.
Students met early in the school year to develop their list of criteria for prom — a classy venue and better food and music were high on the list, he said.
The end result at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco "reflected the spirit of the school and what students wanted," he said.
What he'll most miss about high school are his friends, Smale said.
Least missed will be "Paly's competitiveness."
"I'm a competitive person, but there's a lot of pressure here to excel. Kids feel like they have to do the best they can, and sometimes that can really get to you.
"I've come across times of stress where it's been hard to focus on anything besides school, so it will be good to get away from that."
Smale's stress-management advice is, "Just take classes that are going to work for you.
"A lot of kids will take five APs just because that's what their parents or teachers say is going to get them into college. But when you take classes you don't enjoy, you're not going to do as well."
To a new student he would suggest: "Try new things.
"I met some of the nicest people through water polo, which I just went into freshman year and had no idea how it would turn out. Same with student government — I never saw myself getting into that, and it was just a blast."