It’s ridiculously immature to be jealous of a 4-year-old. Especially when I’m 15. I realize that. But you try living with a little brother— watching him marathon PBS kids’ shows and scrawl things on walls in his very best crayon print. The hardest thing he ever has to do with his brain is figuring out a way to climb to the top of the cabinet and get back down in one piece— after eating half the cookie jar, of course. I’m willing to bet that he has a better social life, too.
I frequently get the urge to stare solemnly into his eyes and tell him, “when you’re my age, you’ll want to be young again.” It’s the same thing that adults tell me, but here I am, only near the end of sophomore year, and I am panicking at the nightmarish descriptions of junior year looming ahead. I’d give anything to be in middle school again, or even to be a freshmen. High school has long since defeated its purpose by killing my motivation to gravitate towards adulthood.
The poor misled child that I was, high school was once the place where I expected to mature, to find some greater calling, to experience “the best years of my life.” But somewhere along the way between middle school and sophomore year, somewhere during two grueling years, I had grown tired of growing up. Maturity complicates situations. I can’t find a greater calling, I can’t even find an essay topic. And if these are the best years of my life, then I need to seriously reevaluate my life choices from now on.
High school is meant to prepare you for the next step in life. But it’s high school that you should have prepared for, with something more than a new backpack and typical first-day nerves, so that you don’t spend four eyes struggling to catch up with expectation.
What’s all the fuss even about? The rush forward in life, the push to prepare for a future that will get here in its own time. We stand on the verge between our lighter teenage days and the next step, and we should be enjoying the view, savoring the moment now that we are finally old enough to be aware of how young and comparatively carefree we are. But in reality, we are forced to stare straight ahead at a path that might or might not exist yet. Every day is a march through classes, from this thing to that thing that is meant to prepare us for the end of high school. But if I stare at the end as soon as I start, how do I catch myself from tripping?
What if it isn’t worth it? It’s the perpetual uncertainty of teen-hood, after all. Who am I doing it for? What am I doing it for? What am I even doing? With only two more years of high school left to me, I’d like to take a step back and breathe. And that’s when I slack, when I look at my brother, slam the laptop shut and go sleep a healthy number of hours for the first time in weeks.
I guiltily enjoy those hours of rebellion against my self-imposed expectations. But my enjoyment disappears by the time my miserable test score returns to haunt me, while the lack of effort the night before made it my fault and my fault alone. The comments from peers mocking my arrogantly high standards only bite deeper.
I will not apologize for caring. I will not apologize for stressing. I despise this system, where I am quite possibly wasting four years of my life, because of the harsh reality in which effort does not guarantee success.
But it’s not as if lack of effort will guarantee success either, and so here I am, trading the “best years of life” for textbooks and AP scores. I mourn for my lost time these past two years that I will never get back, and I dread the end of this year, because a new year of effort, frustration, bottles of Advil and late nights must come. I regret not cherishing middle school with its glorious freedom and immaturity, and I continue to envy a 4-year-old.