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As the new year begins, there’s no better time for reflection than now. Many people look at what they did in the past and try to improve their lifestyles with resolutions, but I’m not much of a believer in them since they tend to fail. Instead, I looked back at the last few months of 2016 and drew some lessons I could take away from my experiences since the beginning of the school year.

If you talk to anyone who has gone through high school, most of them would say junior year is the hardest one to get through, but I never knew how true this actually was until I experienced it firsthand. All the stories about late nights studying or weeks of depression never fully prepared me for the misery. After all, I had gone through late nights of studying before, and everyone has had their fair share of sadness in their life. However, junior year reached an all time low. Fortunately, for all the agony and despair, there are still many lessons to take away from it all so far.

First and most importantly, I learned that your health and well-being is more important than any assignment or extracurricular could ever be. At the beginning of the school year, I would work hours on end, late into the night, to get everything I could done, but eventually staying up late only hindered my success. Without getting enough sleep and taking care of my body, everything else started to break down, including my ability to think straight and process information. I may not always prioritize my well-being over my school work, sacrificing much needed sleep to finish a project or study for a test, but I’ve learned to care more about my health and have tried to find a compromise between my well-being and everything else.

The next important lesson I learned helps me maintain my well-being. This lesson was to stop spreading myself out too thin. When the school year started up again, I continually joined an increasing amount of clubs and activities, went out more with friends, and took on more goals for myself. There eventually became a breaking point for me when I realized that I don’t have to do everything, and college doesn’t expect me to be a robot who can do just about everything in only one 24-hour day. I had to learn to say no and prioritize what I really wanted to do before I burned out completely.

To expand off this point, I realized that I should be doing the activities that make me happy. I shouldn’t be concerned about what colleges want from me, only that I’m happy with what I’m doing. There’s only one life you live with a limited amount of days in it, so you might as well make the most out of each and every single one of them.

It took me a while to accept this, but I realized that I’m not going to be the greatest at everything and that’s okay. I put a lot of pressure on myself to strive for greatness in everything I do, and as nice as that is, it’s okay to accept adequacy instead of beating yourself over it. There is always time to improve, and I don’t have to be instantaneously perfect at everything that comes my way.

Lastly, I learned not to sweat the small stuff. Driven by a perfectionist personality, I have a tendency to do this and it only makes matters worse. There’s no point in grueling over small details of an already tough school year if it only makes you more stressed out. It’s hard to just let go of those pent up feelings of minute details, but it must be done in order to maintain one’s sanity.

Although I took these lessons from my experiences as a high schooler, these can still be applied to a range of circumstances. However, if you have the time at the start of this new year, try to reflect for yourself and learn from your experiences from the past year. The only way to improve yourself is to learn from your past, and this can only be done if you take the time to reflect and learn from it.

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Kalen Luciano is a senior at Jefferson Township High School. He's involved in many different activities from chorus and the musical to UNICEF and Stand Up to Cancer. In his free time, he enjoys going on hikes, reading, writing, and hanging out with friends.