The beginning of Year 13 wasn’t what I expected. I was living on this illusion beforehand that my last year, at least academically, would be pretty chill. I assumed I’d have bigger projects, more independence, and a freedom to explore what I really wanted to learn. But boy, was I wrong.

Two weeks into the first term I was given work from every possible angle. We were already writing essays about externals that I didn’t even want to know about yet. I was restless and unsettled in my new classes, where none of my close friends were sitting beside me. All in all, due to my final year expectations, my mind was struggling to catch up to the reality.

But here’s the beauty of Year 13. Things actually get better, like everyone says. I had quite a few wonderful friends in the year above and they all said the same thing; everyone becomes friends with everyone. I was talking to people I’d hardly known last year, let alone had actually socially interacted with. Some of these people met me for the first time, knew of my existence, and even better yet, appreciated it. Note of advice? Take those opportunities to meet new people. I was invited to a leadership camp back in January, and it was through that that I found many like minded people who had some great personalities and some great stories to tell. Break down those judgements you’ve held since Year 9. We’re almost adults, so treat each other like one. I realised, in those first few weeks, it was the people I was missing. But really, it was the familiarity. Give it time, my older friends said. And I did. I made new friendships, talked to new people, worked with new people. Sure, it’s a new dynamic, but it’s one I’m really beginning to like.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised there is so much more to life than school. It’s not the be all, end all. But I don’t allow that to make me think any less of it. A thought occurred to me last week: I’m almost halfway through the final stretch of my secondary school education and I’m hardly aware that I’m Year 13. We’re so wrapped up in our schoolwork, our social life, our jobs, the drama and the parties, that we forget we’re in that year we’ve put on a pedestal since the beginning of time. It’s pretty spectacular, but we wouldn’t know it. So, start noticing. Enjoy it. I know it’s hard to when we’re stressing about right now, tomorrow, next week and next year, but I don’t want to look back to 2018 and remember it as the year I sailed through without at least reveling in it once or twice. Life’s only gonna be stressful, or busy, or a time of overcommitment, if we see it and talk it like that. We’ve chosen what we’ve chosen, and in that we need to make the most of what we’ve got.

The biggest thing that the first few months of Year 13 has taught me? Thinking about next year means I’m not thinking about this one. There’s a time and a place for decision making, but don’t let it take you away from what’s in front of you now. I’ve only got one Year 13, and believe me, I know now it won’t be perfect. But it’ll be something memorable for everyone, whether it’s victorious or even perhaps a dissapointment. Look forward to next year, but look forward to this one too.

Hannah is a Year 13 student who wants to be a storyteller of sorts. She loves film, theatre and putting words to paper and wouldn’t be seen without a messy bun atop her head and her Docs on her feet.

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