The Struggle is Real, But It’s OK


Julia Walker

In a large school, expectations are even greater, taking a toll on students and their mental health.

Bryce Mallory, Writer

Every morning I wake up at 6:30 a.m. Picking an outfit is where my day begins. The nerves start flowing through my system, waking me up more for the rest of the day. Is this OK to wear? Does this go together? I can’t wear sweatpants today – I have to look put together. On and on it goes until I settle on something; usually jeans and a shirt or sweatshirt. 

I say goodbye to my mom, who is in the kitchen when I go downstairs every morning. She always makes sure to get up and say goodbye to my brother and I before we leave. 

Walking out to my car in the driveway, I try not to think of the day ahead. I try to push away thoughts of my school work, but my upcoming tests and quizzes manage to come creeping in. I need five minutes. Five minutes of calm on my drive to school before I have to face what waits for me when I open the doors of West. 

It is no easy thing, parking in the student lot. It’s stressful and it can get chaotic. Which is why my five minutes of peace is over as soon as I see the building outline of the school. 

After parking my car, I walk up to the commons entrance. Here we go. 

I find my first hour, and walk swiftly up the stairs to the third floor. It’s too early for the stair climb with my heavy backpack, but I don’t have much of a choice. I’m alone while walking to class, and I see groups of friends hanging out and talking in the hall. 

Anxiety is a vicious, unwanted friend plaguing your thoughts for minutes, hours, even days. It is a swirl of emotions, never leaving you alone to rest. I need academic validation. I can’t play soccer anymore, due to knee issues, so I need to keep my grades together. 

Last night I stayed up past midnight doing homework, so I’m running on very little sleep. but I have to do well. I have to get good grades. I have to keep up appearances.

The day rolls by in a blur, and I already have two hours of homework, before I even walk into the fourth hour.

For the first time today, I smiled as my friend said a joke that broke me out of my own head. The pure joy and excitement I feel every day walking into my fourth hour is unmatched by anything else. I remember now how good I have it. For the rest of the day, I try to keep my mood up, because my classes ahead are something I can look forward to. 

I have been told how to feel my entire life by peers, friends, and even people I don’t know. They say I should be grateful for all the good days and keep my focus away from the bad ones. In reality, for me anyway, I don’t want to focus on only the good times. That feels inauthentic to me to not have any bad days, because it’s normal to have a bad day. It’s normal to feel sad, or down about something, and I want people to know that it’s OK if that’s the way they feel sometimes. 

Feeling like this isn’t an everyday occurrence. While it is easier to focus on what’s going wrong, it’s important to have some attention being brought to all the positive things as well.  The tool I use the most to brighten my day is music. Music does a plethora of things for me like: help me focus, work faster, and even acts as an excuse to sing in my car. 

I realize that my AP classes are taking a toll on me, but I have also learned you have to laugh when you can, smile often and enjoy the little things. I know that seems basic, but as I get closer to completing my first semester as a junior, I look back and realize how fast time has flown by. 

Before I know it, I’ll be a senior, after that, in college. The everyday moments, the moments I don’t even realize happen, are the ones I most often forget. I often forget how I made someone else smile, or how hard I laughed before school at my bad parking. I often forget that someday in the future, I’ll look back and remember the good times about high school; my friends, fun classes, and dances. 

The high school experience has definitely been a journey, but I would not change anything about it. On my five minute drive home, some days I roll the windows down and let the breeze run through my hair without a care in the world. Other days, it’s a little more mellow. No matter what though, I always use those five minutes to keep finding reasons to smile.