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The Joys of Junior Year

By Mackenzie Merkel

Imagine a world of late-night projects, excruciating deadlines, and endless busywork.

Does this sound like a full time job? That’s not quite it… or, maybe: yes it is, exactly (without the paycheck)! The truth is, this is how I describe my junior year of high school.

To be sure, every outgoing sophomore hears the horror stories of a junior’s workload, but it is hard to comprehend the work until you actually experience it. I remember approaching junior year with an unfittingly optimistic attitude. Oh, well. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? That summer was one of the best yet, since I was completely ignorant of the impending doom.

In all fairness, some weeks are worse than others are; but, as they say, when it rains, it pours. This week has figuratively been pouring. After a welcome but insufficient weeklong respite known commonly as “spring break,” the collective gears of my peers and I have been reluctant to start turning once again.

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The most trying aspect of junior year has been the accompanying guilt. Not academic guilt; I’ve been able (thankfully) to keep up my grades. The guilt I’m referring to seeps into my consciousness any time I begin to have fun.

That’s right, I have an terribly dangerous form of “indulgence guilt.” A rare and mysterious ailment, this guilt is derived from one potent phrase: “I should be studying!” Whenever I do let loose and allow myself to trade in the books for, say, a movie ticket, those malevolent four words prevent me from entirely enjoying myself.

Furthermore, I’m not even in the home stretch yet. I still have studying for two AP tests and three SAT subject tests, not to mention finals in my non-weighted classes. Moreover, although I’m certainly looking forward to summer, I know that it will be filled with college essays and other forms of college preparation and research.

With two AP courses and one Honors course, I am not even the worst off out of my peers. Every day I observe others with even heavier burdens than my own. We all have learned to handle stress a little differently, and we (my peers and I) have all learned that mutual support is essential to retaining what little sanity we have left.

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I feel obliged to admit that this uphill struggle is worth the time and energy. When I receive my report card, the small innocent looking paper with a disproportionate power to either please or depress, the glittering row with six vertical copies of that pristine letter informs me that I again have attained academic perfection. At that moment, I feel an indescribable rush most comparable to a “runner’s high.” However embarrassing this fact may be, good grades are my drug, and I am hopelessly addicted.

Finally, for all my complaining, I do realize that this year has been a year of conditioning. I have learned exceptional time-management and study skills, and I have built up the tolerance and concentration needed for prolific amounts of work.

My brain has become a fine-tuned machine.