Saying that teens today are stressed is like saying NASA put man on the moon: heavily disputed despite the innumerable evidence to prove it. Teenagers have been stressed since the beginning of time. Can you imagine the first person to ever go through adolescence? As if having acne and body odour wasn’t bad enough, they had to choose between being a hunter or a gatherer by the winter or risk being kicked out of the cave. Teens have always had it rough, and the development of humankind has only made it worse. The choices young people must make as we grow up have multiplied exponentially, and the gravity of those decisions has never been so large. Teens are expected to make major life-altering and savings-account-ruining choices before our brains are fully developed. Heck, we are not even allowed to vote – why are we deciding the rest of our earth-ridden lives if we cannot be trusted to choose a viable political candidate? I would argue that filling out a ballot is infinitely easier than completing a university application.  

And on that note, the journey into post-secondary is one of pain, tears, and desperate planning to establish a commune in rural Peru. University, while an excellent idea in theory, exists simply to destroy indecisive souls before we are even allowed to buy alcohol. How am I supposed to decide on a program, out of literally thousands, if I cannot even decide what I want at the McDonald’s drive-thru? At least my decisions at fast food restaurants only affect my health – my choices for post-secondary affect my finances. University is powerful, not because of its vast stores of knowledge and potential, but because the very thought is enough to send any fatigued and overcaffeinated youth into hysterics. The questions one must answer to apply are plentiful and utterly bizarre, like, “Explain, in under 600 words, how your vegetable persona relates to your leadership capacity,” and the ceaseless onslaught is almost akin to a Senate hearing, except “I do not recall,” is not a valid answer.  

Solutions do exist. My mom has said that I can stay home from school for a day to work on my university applications, but if I do that, I am three days behind on everything else and the ceaseless screaming of the damned echo in my dreams for a week. The sheer effort one must put in to not drown in grade 12 is unparalleled, and I resent the fact that any and all films about senior year refused to acknowledge this. Seriously: the most unrealistic aspect of High School Musical: Senior Year is not the singing and coordinated dancing, but the lack of a montage of the main characters crying over their math homework.  

Desperately struggling to pass any given class is pivotal to the senior experience, but that is not to mean that the feature of many high school films is unimportant and irrelevant. If anything, it is understandable: it is the culmination of 12 years of awkwardness and anxiety in a delightfully expensive fashion. I am, of course, talking about prom.  

I’m beginning to believe that prom was invented by the KGB itself. Not only do you have to pay hundreds of dollars on a dress or suit that might not even fit by the time you get to wear it, and coordinate with your friends (who are, let’s be honest, flaky when it comes to issues where organization is vital) how you are all going to get to prom, and ward your mother off from giving you the hairstyle she always wished she had in 1980, but you also have to face the harsh reality that you, an almost-adult, cannot dance. Waltzing in gym class is one thing; getting it down on the dance floor in front of all your peers is another. If you are one of the lucky few who have gone through their entire educational careers without public humiliation, prom is the greatest obstacle of all.  

However, there is a silver lining. Grade 12 is stressful, but it is also pretty great. There is a special kind of freedom that comes with knowing that nothing will be the same after June. All those plans for the future suddenly become real, so you can let yourself become excited about it. Your friends, all startling aware that you will all probably not be in the same place a year from now, become more inclined towards appreciation rather than sarcasm. Sometimes, you wonder if your teachers will miss you once you graduate (and maybe that is why you are doing so well in their classes), and you think you might miss them too. But beyond this introspection and deep-rooted affection for the known, lies a different beast altogether: nostalgia. You have to admit that you will miss high school, even with the stress that comes with it, but you know there has to be something amazing on the horizon. There has to be.  


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