4 Ways to Turn a Challenging Year Into Something Meaningful

Student Life

Although it was stressful and tiring, my junior year of high school was overall a great experience. Unfortunately, it's not the same for everyone I've met: my older friends had warned me about this dreadful year, saying that I would not have time for anything but schoolwork. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way for everyone, just as it wasn't that way for me.

If you want to know how I did it, here are 4 ways to make the best out of your junior year and to prevent challenges from making it any less meaningful than it should be!

1. Be Proactive

In Sean Covey's book “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” the first habit he recommended was “Be Proactive.”

So, what exactly is being proactive?

Being proactive means you take control of your life, deciding the best ways to act and react to things. When you're a proactive person, you no longer let external, uncontrollable things decide how you feel, think, or react. Instead, you believe that your life is what you make it. Therefore, you start to thrive because you know the only thing that's stopping you is yourself.

For example, it's the beginning of the school year, and you're sitting in your new English class. However, you start to realize you are and going to have a hard time in this class: it's hard to finish your homework on time and the subject is absurdly difficult.

In dealing with this situation, you have two options:

1. Think to yourself “Oh, screw this” and accept that you can't thrive this year in English. You keep on complaining about your bad luck and think there's nothing you can do.

2. Go talk to the teacher or the academic counselor, find ways to finish homework more efficiently, and find resources online to learn better.

Being proactive will lead you to the second option, which will solve the dilemma and give you more peace of mind. This is just a small example of a habit that will certainly change your life, change the way you see and solve problems, and help you become a more proactive and productive student. See the magic in this mindset?

2. Choose the Classes You Like & Like the Classes You Choose

This is not always easy, as sometimes our decisions on choosing courses are influenced by many other things other than our own interests, such as rigor for better college applications, etc.

However, we can still try. When making the decisions on what classes to take this school year, keep your interest in mind. Which subjects spark your interest? Which subjects will get you excited about going to school every day? Which subjects will best serve the college major/career that you aspire to?

After you've thought about that, identify those classes and try to squeeze them into your schedule. It's possible that you can't have a “golden schedule” where you have all the classes you like. However, having a few or even just one is better than none, right?

What about the other “undesirable” ones, like math in my case? How could we like those classes?

If the subjects themselves don't interest you, why not think about other benefits you can gain in the courses?

A few examples would be:

- Show colleges that you can handle rigorous courses.

- Acquire essential skills, such as coding, reading, thinking logically, writing academically, etc.

- Be surrounded by smart people from whom you can learn a lot.

- Practice self-discipline.

And more! Like I stated above, owning a proactive mindset can help you recognize the potential in classes you don't love.

3. Open your Mind and Heart

Our teenage years are the time when we learn about so many things. It's the time when we realize the world is not as perfect as we thought, and people aren't always kind. It can be hard, but don't let your negative experiences convince you that that's all the world can offer.

Good things and people can only happen to you if you believe they exist and welcome them. They might not be what you expected, but you won't fail to see them coming if you have an open mind and heart.

So you've got to keep your heart and mind open to new possibilities, adventures, people, and changes. There are so many unexpected things that could happen to you: new bonds with people you never thought you would hang out with, new interest in something you'd never considered, and more.

It might turn out to be horrible, but at least you'll experience and learn something. And that's the whole point of being young (and dumb), right?

4. Live in the Moment

Because nothing is permanent, both the good and bad moments.

I wish I'd kept this in mind more because, sometimes, I wasn't fully in the moment. Maybe I was afraid of feeling hurt or sad during it or after when it's gone. But how can I truly live and experience things if I don't allow myself to be in the moment and cherish them later?

When you live in the moment and don't let the past make you depressed and your future anxious, you truly live. You will laugh with your friends over something silly, you will let yourself cry and stand back up, you will rest knowing that you've had a full day, and so much more.

If you've been letting your past and future negatively affect you enjoying the present moment, I hope you will relax and just live peacefully, knowing that everything will be okay.

It's not easy to adjust your lenses and mindset to stay optimistic and hopeful when facing challenges. But above are some ways that I thought might help you as it did me.

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Nina Tran
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Nina is a Vietnamese high school student, currently studying in the U.S. She hopes you're enjoying the amazing articles on The Teen Magazine!