Column: The Reality of High School Life
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I still have memories of waking up and feeling ill on a school day. I would open my eyes, perhaps start to get ready. But it would not take long for me to knock on my mom’s bedroom door and feebly tell her how I felt. She would place a thermometer into my mouth, and I secretly crossed my fingers and hope for a triple-digit number to appear on the tiny screen. I had gotten pink eye once when I was in elementary school. The minute I woke up that morning, I could tell something was wrong. Later, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. The swollen, pink eyelid that squinted back at me was accompanied by an exuberant grin.
Sure, the illnesses were a bit unpleasant. Nobody enjoyed an upset stomach. With a young and excited spirit such as the one that I used to possess, it was hard to pay much attention to how one felt. Instead, being sick appeared like a blessing in disguise, a miracle. Nothing seemed better than sitting on the couch in my PJ’s and sipping on some chicken noodle soup while all of my friends sat stuck in school. My teachers let me know what I missed and would give me a little extra homework the next day. No big deal.
But now? The excitement that I had used to feel as a child when I woke up sick now has been smashed into a billion little pieces by the baseball bat of reality. Doctor’s appointments, dental cleanings, sick days: an elementary school kid’s dream. In high school? A fiery pit of stress.
Elementary school breezed by with ease. I used to grumble about the fact that I had to get up early to catch the bus, and I always complained that school was ‘oh-so-horrible.’ Because everyone else complained, right? Looking back at those times now, I cannot believe how much I took my school life for granted. I was a little whiz kid, and breezed through every subject with not the slightest bit of difficulty. In all honesty, I did not even know what it felt like to try; everything came so easily to me.
Then middle school came, and everything became a bit more difficult. Recess was left behind, and students no longer stayed with the same teacher all day. Eighth grade made me realize: “Whoa, I actually have to put some thought into my schoolwork.” I suddenly discovered I had to pay attention in class. I had to put in actual effort to do well in school. How crazy is that? Even then, the workload never became too stressful. Sure, the occasional project would come up that required some work outside of the classroom. But for the most part, school remained pretty. . . well, chill.
Now, here I am. I moved on up to Neenah High School. Everyone says high school is stressful, but I had not been expecting this.
I already expressed the difficulty of transitioning schools in one of my previous columns, One Freshman’s Transition to High School. I think I made my point fairly clear there. What I did not mention, however, is the extreme workload.
A part of me knew high school was going to be stressful. Since the sixth grade, my mother pushed me to take the most difficult classes available to me. She signed me up for every advanced class. My mother even tossed me into summer school before seventh grade, so I could skip ahead two math classes. I certainly tried to fight this. I complained that I did not even like some of the subjects that she pushed me to strive in, that too many hard classes would stress me out. Unfortunately, she did not listen.
I signed up for all-advanced classes for my freshman year of high school. I did not know what to expect. Within a month the baseball bat of reality had gotten a good and painful swing at me.
I wish that I could say, “It really is not as horrible as everyone says it is.” But. . . well, I would be lying. Those myths of constantly doing homework or studying until midnight for the next day’s final are not far from the truth, at least in my case. School completely sucked up all of my free time and replaced it with an inexplicable amount of stress.
I do not remember the last time I had so many things to do at once. Having more than one project or essay at any given time is fairly common for me. My little orange agenda constantly burdens me with some responsibility and nags me at every given moment. At this point, opening the planner is almost a painful experience.
High school continues to be time-consuming. With all of these assignments constantly due, I rarely ever have time for myself. Looking back at middle school, I realize how different that was. My nose had always been in a book in seventh and eighth grade. Normally, I finished a novel per week, not an uncommon occurrence. At the beginning of this school year, I almost finished with the first book of A Game of Thrones. Now we are almost halfway through the school year, and I still have not finished that book. How am I supposed to find the time to read when I have boat loads of homework to do?
I also have been meaning to start playing piano again. I stopped taking lessons sometime in the spring and have not touched the instrument since then. Believe me: I want to. My extended family shipped a huge, beautiful piano from the 1960’s all the way from Indiana; now it sits in my room, blanketed in a thin layer of dust. As I said before, I do not have the time to sit down and pick that hobby up again.
Homework is not the only issue. The actual classes themselves also induce stress. Teachers want to cram as much information into our under-developed minds as they can in 53 minutes. Their schedules are tight, and they stick to them. In more than one of my classes, something important happens every day. Something that, if a student misses, will require some effort to catch up on.
Missing school used to be fun. Now it is a nightmare.
In elementary school, I could miss an entire three days without a single care in the world. Now? I fret at the thought of missing one mod. Back when I was a child, the teachers did everything for me. If I missed school, they would collect everything that I needed to do. They would tell me when to do a test. They re-taught lessons for me. Now, I am in high school, and teachers leave it to students to figure all of that out. I am not saying I want to be babied. But for someone who worries as much as I do, having to figure all of these details out is a nightmare. Figuring out when to retake a test is difficult. Having a friend explain all of the new information that you missed is not half as effective as learning it directly from the teacher.
Why must high school ruin our ability to enjoy good things?
Perhaps nobody else thinks the way I do. Maybe I am the only one who stresses out this much about missing school. I tend to fret and worry a bit more than the average person. I mean, I am the one who almost cried last night because my mom was not able to bring home Wendy’s like she promised. Perhaps that is simply what my high school experience is going to be like: late-night parties with my agenda and crying over lost Frosty’s. But as they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. Sure, I may not have gotten my amazing Wendy’s chicken nuggets. But because my mom felt bad, I got sympathy Christmas cookies for dinner instead.
I could still use a good nap in that bright green grass, though.