Dear Rising Juniors,

I wouldn’t wish Junior year on anyone, it isn’t fun, but it is inevitable. It wasn’t my favorite year at all, but it held a few of my favorite moments and my favorite classes. 

Take a class that is mindless // I definitely recommend having a study hall in your schedule but if you can, take a class that is “mindless” – for me that was my sculpture class. It was 45 minutes, twice a week, where I got to smack clay, cut wires and create art I’m actually, ok mostly, proud of. I’m not artsy at all, I’m creative, but not artistic, so this got me out of my comfort zone. 

It will be competitive // Teachers often say that my graduating class is the most competitive and rigorous yet. I never really thought that because we have super athletic kids (not me, obviously) and our grade is the most into school spirit, but oh my I was wrong. Junior year brought out the intensity of everyone. I definitely isolated myself out socially, which I regret, but at the same time, everyone was on edge all of the time. No one warned me that everyone would be comparing numbers and comparing colleges constantly. It was vicious. I finally made myself only look at my grades once a week because it started to really get to me. My AP Language teacher, at least once every two weeks had to remind us that grades don’t matter and the competitiveness really gets to you. You aren’t your grades. You aren’t your score on any exam or test. You aren’t defined by the classes you take or the pictures on your Snapchat story. 

Workout, eat right & sleep // This is something I really worked hard to do and I’m thankful I did. Eating right and working out at least 3-4 days a week minimum kept me a lot less on edge as I could have been. It gave me something to get my energy out and endorphins really do help. Also I only got sick once, at the end of the year for two days while I know so many others who were out for weeks on end. Burn out will happen regardless, but the better you eat, exercise and sleep it won’t be as bad. I also kept a journal from January on, which has added to my continuation of sanity.

Your parents are your biggest cheerleaders // Compared to the beginning of Freshman year to now, I am so much closer with my parents. Yes, we do drive each other nuts everyone in awhile and I still can’t keep my room clean for the life of me, but they are my biggest fans. Whether it’s helping me plan homecoming and prom or just venting after a long day, they are always there. I’m definitely a self driven person but having parents that encourage you to work to my personal best and occasionally take a day off (to hangout with your grandma) when it gets rough, got me through this year. I know so many people who don’t have as great of relationships with their parents, which makes my heart hurt, but if you can, their support will get you through. 

Use a planner or an organized system // I’ve had the same system throughout high school but Junior year really refined and showed me what truly works. I’ve learned that I HAVE to use a planner to jot everything down, I recommend it a million times. The satisfaction of crossing something off, even though my school uses an online calendar system, motivates you to knock out everything. I also learned that I can’t study as well at home, I’ll get talking with my mom or fall asleep so the library has become my second home. I credit a lot of my success to my planner, my acoustic covers study playlist and my favorite table at the library.

Take joy in the little things // While there are big things that are memorable, whether that’s dancing with your best friend at homecoming or beating the rival school in a heated basketball game, I’ve held on to the little moments. That includes setting off fireworks in the parking lot after (teacher supervised), car dance parties or rapping Ice Ice Baby in the center of the dance floor at prom with my two closest best friends.  Or even driving home from an away football game at 11 at night with the windows down in a random small southern town with the stars shining so bright. I’ve baked cookies and danced around my kitchen, picked up my little brother from school and got ice cream, visited my best friend at her college for dinner – they aren’t the big moments but they are my favorite. If you define your happiness by the big moments, you’ll look back and be disappointed, but the precious little moments make studying in the library worth it.

Reflecting on Junior year makes me so excited for Senior year ahead. I will be taking classes I’m all interested in & I’m hoping to take all of the many lessons I learned and actually apply them. I’m excited for all of the traditions, whether cheesy or not and for the fun ahead. Juniors, you will get through it. Gold is not made with out an intense refinement process.