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Teenworthy: Time for the Back-to-School Slog

Published on: December 30, 2013

Young woman sleeping on laptopI didn’t do anything fantastical. I didn’t travel anywhere interesting. In fact, I spent a lot of my vacation wallowing in my own boredom, all the while procrastinating on summer assignments.

But I’m still going to miss summer. While autumn’s arrival means my birthday is just around the corner, it also means that it falls on a Monday, and students hate Mondays. A long time ago I was actually excited about going back to school, but that was when math was just time-telling and long division. And when school started about an hour later than it does now. And when looking good just meant wearing clean clothes.

During those nine months of the school year, school is my world. It’s where most of my friends are at, it’s where I spend the majority of my week, and it’s where planning where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do is at. All of this occurs as preparation for another school, a bigger version of school: college.

I’m going into eleventh grade this year, and I can assure you that junior year is usually the most hectic, chaotic year of high school. Senioritis runs rampant, as many of the afflicted just sit comfortably in their classes waiting for their acceptance letters.

Juniors, on the other hand, are cramming all the AP classes they can fit into their schedule, competing for spots on varsity teams, and drawing blood for leadership positions. Weekends are spent studying for the SATs or ACTs, practicing for a driving test, perfecting a group project, or grieving over parties that the aforementioned activities made you miss.

It’s the year that I do not want any sort of scholarly regrets about. It’s the year where I cannot afford to give any less than 100 percent. It’s the year that counts.

I have many friends who casually mention that they’re taking five, or six, AP classes. Others are doing Running Start. A few are taking online classes on the side. Some are transferring to private schools in the hopes that the curriculum, and name, will give them a boost. For me, taking only a scant three (or four, depending on whether or not I can transfer out of AP Environmental Science to make room for band) AP classes at my local public high school, it makes me kind of want to tear my hair out. But only occasionally.

These kids, some of whom I have known back when we had scabby knees, missing teeth, and scarecrow-like proportions, are my college competition. Plain and simple. We may not be applying to the same schools, but I always catch myself comparing my achievements (or lack thereof) to theirs. In little bursts of stress common to the school year, I despair over how I can never match up to them.

Yet I try. That’s one thing the school year does bestow upon me that summer never can: diligence. In the warm months of July and August, sometimes my greatest achievement of the week was consistently getting out of bed before noon.

During the rainy, cold slog of the school year, my greatest achievements are acing a math test, nailing a solo in a particular music piece, winning a fencing bout, finishing 25 pages of history notes, and receiving praise for a speech in a presentation, all in one day! Just looking at that list in the last throes of summer right now makes me exhausted, but completing something like that in between September and June is easy.

Procrastination, during the school year, is a foreign concept to me. All of this work, just to impress a college. I can only hope that when I do start applications, hard work is a quality these institutions value.

I’m already anticipating a monstrous workload; we had to go back last week to get our textbooks and netbooks and such, and I had to have my parents help carry those things out to the car. Yes, I guess I signed myself up for it, but still. I’m incredibly lucky to have a close group of friends that aren’t put off by my constant studying and occasional rant-fests, as some of them are also putting themselves through this pressure. Socially, I’m well-equipped to deal with this year. Mentally, I think I am, once I get back into the routine and all of last year’s teachings resurface.

But I’m still going to mourn summer’s passing, maybe even a week or two into the school year. I’d rather stay and sun myself in my lawn chair than take a seat behind a desk to pick apart the symbolism in The Great Gatsby. There’s something serene about being completely oblivious to whether it’s Monday or Friday, and spending endless hours outside knowing the next day is the same thing.

ritaolsonRita Olson is a student at Redmond High School. A sweater-loving "hapa," she also enjoys getting involved with the community and volunteering with animals. Outside of writing, she enjoys fencing, running, hiking, exploring various types of indie and alternative music, and going out with friends.

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