Summer’s over and coming to a close, and it’s been a blast. I've had time to sleep, relax, go out and have fun, and work productively. But I've also had time to reflect on the last academic year and on myself as a person. And I must say, last year was a rollercoaster in itself. I had my highs and my lows. I have experienced several occasions of burnout. I practically gave up after the exam season. I made mistakes. So, I know what it is that I want to do differently this next year, my last year before university. And I think it’s important for all of us to do these things before we start a new academic year.
Consider what the last academic year taught you.
Every year of our lives teaches us something new. Every day should bring a new lesson, so there’ll definitely be something new that you took from the last academic year. Last year taught me two things. I learned the importance of self-care and not just in the sense of applying face masks and taking baths, but rather in terms of putting myself and my needs first: taking a step back, being honest about how I'm feeling, cutting things that aren’t meaningful to my life off, but most of all celebrating myself and my successes.
And secondly, I learned that no-one cares. No-one cares whether or not you show up to classes, whether or not you complete your homework, or whether you smash your exams. We’re becoming adults now, so it’s your own responsibility. And no-one cares about what you do. I used to feel so embarrassed if I tripped over and fell at school, or if I was doing something weird—in reality, no-one cares. We all have enough going on for us to be concerned about what other people are doing. Hold onto the lessons of the past.
Know your goals for the year.
It’s important to establish a plan of action so you have a sense of direction and purpose as you progress through the year. I'm going into my senior year at school, so it feels like I must have my entire future planned out. And realistically, that’s not the case. No one will ever have it all figured out—life would lack mystery and adventure, making it boring. I think the most important thing is to work out what it is that you enjoy and what you’d do any day of your life. That alone is enough. Then plan backwards—to reach your ultimate goal, what smaller goals will you need to achieve? And there you have your action plan.
And if you change your mind or develop more interests, that's fine. Again, think of your end goal and work backwards such that you have numerous smaller aims that can be achieved in the long term. And if you don’t know what it is that you want, that’s okay. Just satisfy yourself. Make sure that whatever you do makes you happy and you’ll find your calling.
It's okay to make mistakes.
Part of being human is trying, failing, succeeding, making mistakes, and growing. I used to fear making mistakes because I was so obsessed with the concept of perfection and, in the long term, it hindered me because I stopped taking risks. I became concerned with what people thought of me and didn’t want people to see my flaws. And then I realized, I was erasing my authenticity. It was better everyone see the real me, the flawed me. We're all perfectly imperfect and it’s never a bad thing. Mistakes are unique to us all and they are our best teachers. Don't be afraid of making them. They're a guide to show you what went wrong and allow you to progress in the future.
associate with people that help you improve.
I think as we grow, it’s so important to be surrounded by people that are constantly seeking to improve themselves with you. One thing I learned from finishing secondary school is that just because everyone is growing up physically doesn’t mean emotional and mental growth follows. I’m going to turn 18 in a few months, and I refuse to be surrounded by people with childish attitudes. Just as you are growing, ensure the people around you are growing.
This is the best way to keep growing. My mum taught me that life will be difficult—the pathway to the top where you want to be is not an easy one. And the best way to prepare yourself for that is to constantly reside outside of your comfort zone. If you’re comfortable, you’re not learning or growing. Take those extra revision classes. Ask for work to complete for extra credit. Try new things. Take risks and ask questions, whether or not you know the answer. Be brave, dare to be different and become a better person in the process.
Be kind to other people. I often sit and wonder about the world’s problems and I think one of them is that we’re all selfish. In some circumstances, it’s always best to put yourself first, but humans take it too far. Being considerate of people and smile—it costs nothing.
And be kind to yourself. You always come first. If things are getting too much, take a step back. Taking breaks is acceptable; giving up is not. And don’t be too hard on yourself. My unhealthy obsession with perfection meant that I was more focused on what I had yet to do rather than being proud of all the incredible things I had already achieved. Being kind to yourself is the key to positive self-relationships and maintaining self-love. Don't be harsher on yourself than you need to be—I encourage you to have incredible ambitions and big dreams, but don’t be unhealthily hard on yourself.
be thankful for a new year.
It's another school year! That in itself is so exciting to be able to embark on. A chance to grow. To meet new people. To gain new opportunities. UNICEF estimates that 61 million children cannot attend primary school globally. Being privileged enough to go to high school and university is a real blessing. Remember that.
A new school is so exciting—a chance to start again, see everybody, gain new opportunities, embark on an adventure and improve as an individual. So, make this your best year yet. Have fun!