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April 23, 2007

 

-- Senior journal --

Life = Pressure. Pressure = Life.

By Rebecca Baylis

People say life is short. Is it really? When you sit down and really put some thought into that statement, you realize that life really isn't that short.

Life is the longest thing that a person can do, but yet people still tell us that life is too short to be wasting away, and that now is the time to get our lives into order.

Living, for any human being on this planet, is difficult enough – just getting from one day to the next can prove to be a mammoth task – yet additional outside pressures seem to make life a little bit harder.

I mean, come on, I'm almost 18, and already I am told that ‘time is now.’ What's the deal with that?

Being a teenager can be the most enjoyable part of a person's life. I cannot exactly know that for sure at this moment of time, considering that I've only experienced childhood and adolescence, but I can look back at the last six years of my life at many fond memories that will stay with me forever.

The teenage years are meant to be enjoyable. Girls and guys are supposed to go out and have as much fun as possible while they still have one hand firmly grasped on their youth.

What do people think about when looking back on their teenage years? They are the years of coming to terms with your own identity, of wild parties that you can talk about for weeks afterwards, of the first crush and everything that comes with it.

Most of all, I’ve valued my teenage years as a period of ‘growing up time.’

Unfortunately for many teens, including myself, the process of growing up may have occurred a little too quickly, and many ask themselves if it's all worth it.

Don't get me wrong. At some point, everyone has to grow up into the adult that they need to become, but the ways teenagers have to grow up isn’t by choice, it’s by necessity.

A few months ago I finished high school, putting an end to my school career. It was probably the scariest moment of my life.

I finally realized that the safety net of high school had been taken away from me – and it wasn’t going to be there during university.  The realization of the pressure that I was being put under finally hit me. This pressure is something every student can relate to, and it can either make or break a life.

When I began school in Australia almost four years ago, I had never been put into a situation where the pressure to succeed was so intense.

I have always been a hardworking student and I found myself at the top of nearly all my classes in England, but I came to Australia and found that students are pushed to get good grades.

I'd never experienced that before.

Last year, known here as Year 11, was when everything started to get a little crazy over here as it marks the beginning of ‘upper school,’ and 16-year-olds find themselves having to chose careers and plan their futures.

In a matter of weeks, kids have to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives and pick subjects accordingly. It unnecessarily puts intense pressure on people.

Year 12 is the last year of school in Australia, and it is without a doubt the toughest year of schooling I have been through.

The subject load is enormous. I thought that I’d be able to handle it without a problem and, at first, I could.

I could see people around me getting bogged down in studying for four or five subjects and putting great emphasis on needing to pass or forever being nothing in life.

There I was, doing six tertiary entrance examination subjects, and it was hard.  All of last year, my peers and I were telling ourselves that if we didn't get a good result in our exams then there was no hope of going to university, at all.

Can you image the kind of pressure that students around Australia were putting themselves under? It was crazy. 

When second semester started, teachers for individual subjects began telling students that at least one hour should be spent per night studying.

Now, my mathematic skills may not be my best quality, but I figured out that I should be studying six hours a night for my exams, which is ridiculous. That totals 30 hours a week studying.

I was being asked something that wasn't possible. I’m not a machine!

Not only were we meant to be studying like crazy for the exams, but we also had additional tests and essays to study for.

By September, my friends and I were beginning to think that being a teenager wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Instead of having fun with my friends and enjoying the best years of my life, I was stuck in my room, in front of a computer, studying to make sure that my life wouldn't be pointless, and still I wasn't doing well enough.

I would get tests and essays back and I would be happy with an 80 percent, but teachers thought that I could be doing better.

Seventeen-year-olds are not computers. We can't remember every single piece of information we’re given. Why is that so hard to understand?

Then, to make our lives even nicer, we had to go through mock exams, which were like the real exams that we would be participating in just a few weeks later, but they didn't actually count.

They were worth about 30 percent of our final year grades, but I didn't need to study my backside off for six exams and then have to do it all over again two weeks later.

By doing the mocks, students could get an idea of how they would do in the real exams, and figure out if they could realistically get into the university courses they wanted.

The scores go out the window when you sit the real examination though. Nothing can prepare you for the nerves and anxiety that surround them.

The time slowly rolled around and the real exams had become a reality.

I had never been so nervous. I looked around at the group of people surrounding me and they were literally freaking out.  Everybody had been fooled into thinking that it was now or never and that these exams could mean the end of their lives as they know them.

A girl in my class even started hyperventilating, and all I could think about was how angry I was with the education system for allowing so much pressure to be placed on students. Well, that and how blood sugar is regulated in the body.

After that exam, I remember one of my friends stating that they were going to burn everything to do with the subject because it was over and that they didn't have to remember anything to do with it any longer.

I say good for her, although I am choosing to hold on to everything, for now anyway. It can stay in my room as a reminder that the pressure that I've been subjected to for the last two years of my life is finally over.

No more detention or phone calls home to the parents if test results aren't perfect. Then again, it was my safety net.

I am now starting the next era of my life – university.

I have to admit that at the moment I am coping better than I thought. But I guess if you ask me if I'm still coping in about six months, the answer will probably not be “better than expected.”

What makes me feel just a little bit better though is the fact that I have experienced first hand what it is like to have the weight of all that pressure on my shoulders.

High school may have had plenty of low points, but it took until now to realize that it may have been worth it.

I may have lost my safety net and, yes, it was taken away so quickly that many people are struck hard by finishing school. So many students are incredibly happy when school is finally over, but adjusting to life beyond it seems surreal and scary.

Soon enough the immense pressures of school transform into the everyday pressures that we face in day-to-day life, and it really does hit home that we have been preparing for life all along.

We may not have liked it, but at the end of the day, if I hadn't had grown up when I was forced to, the transition into adulthood would have been even harder than it is already.

My anger has subsided, as now I realize that I am my own person. I’m happy with my life as it is, and hopefully for years to come.

So thanks to high school for making my life a living hell as now I know I can handle anything!

 

 


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