Ninth grade, as I’m sure many of you can agree, was awful. There is nothing fun about moving into a new school with a bunch of people you haven’t come to know yet. They don’t give you any time to adjust to the social climate, either. You’re thrown into a world of football games, dances, and endless homework without any guide for how you should be spending your time.
It’s even worse when you have to teach yourself how to write a college-level research paper.
I’m still salty about it.
The class itself was a really ridiculous one. It was a requirement for the advanced program I was in the Cambridge Program and it was called Thinking Skills. What was the class about? I don’t remember. Logic and puzzle-solving? Something like that. I had to take the class my freshman year so I could test on it three years later, because that makes sense, right? Of course, it doesn’t.
Anyhow, the paper. Just like the class, it was a total joke. Our teacher had talked about it, fleetingly, before it was assigned, but we were otherwise unprepared for what would be sprung on us. If I remember correctly it was about 2,000 words long, if not longer, and it required local, national, and global sources. We were given a basic tutorial in Google searching and then sent on our ways to research and write something worth about half of our grade.
As I said, I’m still salty about it.
I spent weeks in a blind panic as I tried to write the paper. No one could make me feel better because no one could show me what I needed to do. My family didn’t understand the assignment, my teacher failed to help me when I asked him, and my friends were preoccupied with (read: sobbing over) their own papers. In a word, I was lost.
I had no idea how to find the information that I needed while also working it into an essay format. I was scared, terrified that I would fail the entire paper and be unable to continue my high school career. It was all I could think about.
The breaking point came in the midst of one of my daily panic episodes.
An old friend of mine grabbed me by the shoulders, looked into my eyes, and said to me, "Alyssa. Life goes on."
And it did.
The paper was still hard. I got a decent grade; it wasn’t perfect, but life went on. Years have passed since then, and I almost giggle to think of how I acted when I was younger. What mattered so much at the time has nearly no effect on my life now. I struggle to recall exactly how bad I felt at the worst moments and I like it that way.
I’m still afraid of failure. Who isn’t?
We live in a society where success is praised and rewarded while failures are pushed off to the side.
It’s easy to fall into anxious spirals over the idea of failing out and becoming unimportant. It can feel like your life is ending.
But it isn’t.
It isn’t, because as scary as times can get, and as hard as it can be to make it through, life goes on. Once you make it to the other side, there will be so much more waiting for you, so many new opportunities, so many new paths to explore.
Next time you’re really caught up on something, just take a minute to breathe and think, “Life goes on.” Even if you can’t quite convince yourself, just try. You’d be surprised how much a change in thinking can affect your attitude and happiness.