Riding into the new year refreshed

Sometimes high school feels like trying to board a train at a busy station.

Platforms and classes and trains and deadlines and tickets and papers and times and due dates and people and people — so many people trying to hold on and get to their destinations. When winter starts to approach, all the passengers turn their focus toward riding to the end of first semester, waiting to finally be able to rest from the flurry of activity.

But, for the past few years, final exams actually fell after winter break, meaning the chaos of tests and grades still hung in the air like a heavy fog that seems to hover during the coldest months. I recall suddenly waking up during my time off last year and thinking about random math equations and history terms, knowing that I would have to pull them out of my head and organize them for a final in the near future. It felt like my brain had been slowly growing cobwebs, forgetting everything that I needed while I was trying to relax.

Luckily, this year, we finished finals before break.

And it was amazing. I will admit that the change is something small; finals are stressful no matter how you try to twist or change them, so moving them around three weeks doesn’t seem like it would do much, but it really does. To be honest, I’m sure many people, including me, wanted to study during break last year but ended up procrastinating and watching Netflix instead.

But with finals before winter break, teens can actually spend their time doing what they want without the haunting reminder that they have a lot of work waiting for them. Almost every high schooler can benefit from a rest without that stress, and this year provided that.

For my break, I went to New York City and heard the iconic “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” on Broadway. I admired works by Degas and Matisse at the Metropolitan Museum. In Times Square, I craned my neck to view the oversized screens advertising fast food and perfume. Back at home, I had a small New Year’s Eve party with my family. There was no sudden remembering that I needed to study or thinking about having to go back to school. It forced me to slow down, unwind and appreciate the fun things that sometimes pass me by.

High school can feel like everyone is meant to be doing something at every single waking hour, but time off without thinking of upcoming finals allows everyone to recharge. It’s a break that feels like a train where you can finally sit down, enjoy the view and ride into the new year refreshed.

— Leah Packer, a junior at Hinsdale Central High School, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].