Looking back at junior year

I was definitely warned about junior year. I remember being in seventh grade and thinking about high school as this huge, foreboding experience that I would never get through. I would sit in my class, glad to be only in middle school, where the stakes felt low.

People talked about high school, and when I got to high school, they still talked about high school. Maybe the fantasies of "High School Musical" rubbed off on everyone? Except for the part where everyone breaks into song and dance. I still hope one day I will witness a flash mob of students performing in the cafeteria.

Nostalgic teen movies aside, coming into junior year, I was nervous. I even wrote in my first column about how waiting for everything to commence felt like waiting to get a shot at the doctor's office. Now, looking back, it is funny to see how reality actually turned out.

Obviously, there were many obligations this past year. There were grades to keep up with, harder classes and seemingly never-ending homework. And something that unified every student in their junior-year struggle: standardized testing. No one could escape the dreaded PSAT and SAT. Juniors also are now being bombarded with the question of "What are you going to do after high school?" We had to start planning for senior year and watched this year's seniors, thinking how that will be us very soon.

Yet, even wading through this new territory of junior year, there was a sense of familiarity with school that made the year better. It was the same bell, the same building, the same people and mostly the same schedule, although I had to get used to eating lunch, excuse me, brunch at 10 in the morning. Being a junior means you have a better sense of yourself as a high schooler and are more confident. You have the comfort of knowing who your friends are and what classes and activities interest you. If I have learned anything, it is that you are a lot more prepared to be a junior than you think.

And, in the end, we all got through the year. There may have been some hiccups, like the fire alarm going off at the most inconvenient of times and the Wi-Fi being down while everyone was taking an online test, but we still made it. Obviously, senior year is still ahead, but for now we get to bask in the sunlight, go out with friends and perhaps rewatch a cringy teenage movie before our final year of high school.

- Leah Packer, a

rising senior at Hinsdale Central, is a contributing columnist. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].