Junior year for me consisted of a variety of things: a whirlwind of emotions, copious amounts of homework, plenty of realizations, and the weekly (sometimes nightly) mental breakdowns. I'll never forget a friend I had my freshman year who was a junior gave me not only the best metaphor but also a pretty comedic piece of advice: "Junior year is like getting run over by a truck carrying a ton of bricks. However, more and more bricks get added daily making escape impossible." As a freshman, this absolutely TERRIFIED me, but it made me expect the absolute worst for my junior year which did actually help me.

All the stresses aside, however, junior year turned out to be probably my best year of high school. I was experiencing new things, being as active as I've ever been in my school and community, received plenty of honors, and was constantly learning new things about myself along the way. I like to title it a year of growth. Below are 11 things I was lucky enough to finally learn in my junior year:


11. I discovered the subjects that aren't for me, and that's okay.

As a gifted student, I felt this constant pressure up until this year that I had to excel at EVERYTHING. I ended up putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and often times felt stupid. Math and science to me are just a massive amount of confusion, and being in an honors math course this year I felt behind everyone because I wasn't comprehending as fast as everyone else. I know now that that is okay. I excel more in the English and writing department hence why I'm currently writing this and not doing summer calculus homework.

10. I'm also not a test taker, and that's okay too.

While going through the process of taking the college admittance tests, I realized I am just not a test taker. I can excel in the classroom with essays, book problems, and lab work, but put those concepts into a standardized testing atmosphere and it is just not for me. I ended up with "average" scores on my SAT and ACT, but I'm a hundred points short on the SAT for even more merit scholarship at the universities I'm considering. I'm still going to try again, but those extra couple thousand dollars are probably not in my future. But that is okay.

9. Optimizing my time.

With my busy schedule, making the most of my time and using time management skills was super important for me. With 2 AP classes, cheerleading, a lead in my school musical, and plenty of clubs I was always kept super busy. Coming home late from practices or games and doing homework until 2 am was when most of those breakdowns came in. But I survived.

8. My hard work paid off.

I know I still have a whole year left, but being able to see my hard work from the past three years pay off is really rewarding. My hard work also paid off for me in the musical and through my community service with awards. I was also lucky enough to be a finalist in my local Distinguished Young Women program which was a great experience. It's also very rewarding as I'm college searching to feel like I'm impressing my dream schools with all my accomplishments.

7. Everything happens for a reason.

In my freshman and sophomore year, there were a lot of curves thrown at me. A few breakups and being sick as a lead in my school's production of Into The Woods really put a damper on my confidence. I had the worst luck and things never went right for me. This year, however, that seemed to get turned around. I got into a healthy relationship, had a healthy and successful performance in my school's productions of Les Miserables, and was even nominated for my role at a local musical theatre awards competition; a huge honor and accomplishment. I remember just feeling so blessed for all the opportunities I had gotten this year and just remembering everything that previously happened to me was so I could have these amazing feelings now instead.

6. Self-care.

Self-care isn't defined as just an occasional face mask, favorite meal, or ice cream (even though those do help from time to time.) True self-care was one of the things that really got me through the year. Putting my well being first came in handy a lot especially during some of my most stressful moments. It's always a good time to take care of yourself; learn how to do it properly.

5. True friends.

Finding true friends is one of the greatest lessons, gifts, and realizations. Feeling accepted and loved by your friends is so important. It's not a bad thing to cut out the negative and toxic people who are killing your happiness and/or confidence. It's not about who you see the most, talk to the most, or have to associate with the most. Your true friends should be the people who not only enjoy spending time with you, but encourage you, motivate you, and of course, make memories with you. My friends are pretty awesome. I was sick on the last day of school and they delivered me a Fanta and a hot chocolate from McDonalds because they didn't know which one I would enjoy more and wanted to surprise me. True friend goals.

"True friends are like stars; you may not always see them, but you know they're always there."

4. The definition of a healthy relationship.

By the time the summer before junior year rolled around, I was fed up with high school boys and relationships. I had my fair share of manipulation, lies, and nasty breakups. I wanted to be done and just wait until college, but then my current boyfriend came right in. Being honest here, in the beginning, I wanted nothing to do with him as a boyfriend. We had been musical friends since 6th grade, and he awkwardly (and randomly) asked me out at musical in 9th grade. I simply said no and casually ran as fast as possible out the auditorium doors. We still laugh about that to this day. Nevertheless, he persisted and yesterday marked 7 months. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but it is normal of course.

Before him, I was never treated with the respect I should have always had from my boyfriend. I had no standard whatsoever. He shows me every day the respect, love, kindness, and patience every woman should receive from their significant other. Even during a disagreement. I will never settle for anything less and I hope you won't either.

Love yourself enough to respect yourself and your well being.

3. Finally loving myself.

This is something that has honestly taken me way longer than it should've, but that's okay. I slowly learned this year to truly accept myself for who I am and the person I am becoming. I learned to stop comparing where I am in my life to others because I know now that I'm on my own path. It's such a relieving feeling to be focusing on myself and allowing myself to grow rather than just standing back wishing I was anyone else.

"To love yourself is to understand that you don't need to be perfect to be good."

2. I am good enough.

Feeling "good enough" was always a feeling I wanted to have. I was lucky and blessed enough to have that feeling multiple times this year. Before this year, it's hard to recall a time I had those exact feelings of pride and genuine happiness. It felt new and fresh and I loved it. Anytime I'm down now, I just remember those feelings and give myself a friendly reminder accompanied with a pat on the back.

1. I'm prepared for my future endeavors.

Once again, I know I have one more year, but I feel this year so far truly prepared me. From an academic standpoint, my teachers gave myself and my peers a rude awakening that I think we all needed. Learning so much about myself, friendships and relationships give me a stronger backbone for whatever life may throw at me. No matter where I end up or what I end up doing I know I am prepared to be the best me.

"She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." Proverbs 31:25