Narrative of a Stressed Sophomore

⏱️  6 min read

written by

Jillian Holbrook

jillian holbrook

August 5, 2020


If only high school was more like High School Musical.  If only there really was no star in heaven that I couldn’t reach.

Unfortunately, high school is a lot more stressful than that.

As freaky as an impromptu musical number in the middle of the cafeteria would have been, the idealized, romanticized versions of high school don’t portray the real pressures and hardships that everyday students face.

Sophomore year taught me that days of the week that start with s are honestly the only haven for weary students. I really was working for the weekend, a statement that is undeniably true yet ironically also happens to be the title of one of my mom’s favorite 80’s hits.  When I wasn’t working. . . well, scratch that, I really was always working. What high school student isn’t busy with something these days?  Despite my long-standing relationship with keeping busy as a self-proclaimed workaholic, this year was an uncharted ordeal with new twists and turns that not even my relentless planning could tackle.  It was the sucker punch of all school years. No witty anecdote would ever be able to encapsulate the rollercoaster ride.

Academically, I was consumed with the purpose of setting myself apart from my peers.  I needed to diversify and develop the necessary aspects to be successful with future college applications.  My school doesn’t offer any AP classes until Sophomore year and even at that, only AP World. Thus, I decided to push myself further ahead of my peers by studying AP Euro as well on my own time.  

Being an avid learner and history enthusiast made the experience exciting yet still challenging as I worked to achieve my aspirations.  I spent numerous nights up late studying to combat work for AP as well as my normal honors classes and the time sucked up by sports and other extracurriculars.  

The circus couldn’t hold a candle to me as I simultaneously ran around captaining my school’s all-girls robotics team (Pop Sprockets) for the second consecutive year, helping to head Captain’s Club, our athletic leadership program, debate, managing Environmental Club as a club administrator, and directing Student Council and Club Council as documentarian and now as president.   

I was even lucky enough to join the Fiveable intern team and host a few streams. As a result, I was always on the run between classes and events with little to no breaks to stop and slow down or smell the roses. It was enjoyable, but a whirlwind so fast that I could hardly enjoy the important snapshot moments hurtling at me breakneck speed.

A lack of productivity gets me off my game and as much as I am stretched thin by my workload, I eliminate extraneous anxiety by being busy.  However, I am endeavoring to prioritize my own happiness and take life one step at a time as opposed to several strides. As much as I want to be successful in the future, I can’t ignore the gift of the present.  

While exercising extreme time management skills, I rediscovered the necessity of investing in activities that can alleviate the constant stress packed on by teachers, parents, peers, standardized tests, college applications and more.  To cope with my demons, I invested in friendships with better foundations, took up playing the guitar, read new books, poured over Spotify playlists and my vinyl collection, and spent more time outdoors with my dog soaking up the sunshine.  

No matter what expectations have been put on me by others this past year, I will always be my own worst critic.  Moreover, this year was a lesson of learning to find the bright side and learning to start loving myself. Obsessing over my imperfections won’t help me improve and grow in a healthy way.  That’s why I began cutting ties with “friends” who were just using me and amplifying my innumerable insecurities.

I battled my social anxiety and trust issues to meet new people who turned my life around.  With a new system of support Sophomore year, I have started being able to conquer the daily struggles of remembering to smile, eating regularly, and actually getting to sleep for at least a few hours each night.  I bottled up my stress, fears, and negative emotions up so tight that I was ready to explode, however, learning to let go of my self-doubts, the people who have hurt me, and the expectations people paint me into has steered my life into a new, better direction.  

Don’t continue toiling in what makes you unhappy.  

Finding true friends and what brings you joy helps take the weight and heavy burdens off your shoulders. The Fiveable community has connected me to new faces and personalities across the world. I’m grateful for my new connections with both students, teachers, and the Fiveable staff. My battles with self-confidence will rage on, yet I am more prepared to handle deprecating emotions. Procrastinating happiness only allows the triumph of misery.

Additionally, this past year was also the first without club soccer in my life.  Getting outside for practice used to be my main source of stress relief, but now I found it unavailable.  There weren’t a hundred weekends spent away from home for matches or countless hours spent on the pitch rain, sleet, or shine. Soccer was always a year-round commitment with cancellations once in a blue moon only for lightning or the occasional winter drop in temperatures below 15º F.  

I had been playing league soccer since I was five years old and I took up club at age 10 where I was fortunate enough to make the top team in my area.  It was a defining moment for me, but the first fracture in my friendships. Being busy all the time meant I wasn’t available for the typical sleepovers or hangouts. After my friends didn’t make the team with me, I began feeling isolated as they would often spend time together without me. Yet despite this, I carried on, developing new friendships with my teammates.  

We were an incredible group with a familial bond over the next several years.  From our hours of practice, ice cream celebrations, and shoveling off the fields together in the winter, we were the best of teammates and the best of friends.  All was well until the year before high school when new Regional Club League rules dictated that teams would be determined by birth year instead of school year. I was split off from girls I had been playing with for years and forced to step up my game to compete with girls that had much more experience than me.  I started falling out of love with the game as I felt I couldn’t keep up with my new teammates.

It wasn’t until January of 2018, where I broke my hip and continued playing on it for a month until I could no longer walk that I realized the sheer agony I was enduring.  I had already fractured an arm and suffered a few serious concussions along with handling the emotional toll it took on my friendships. Giving up the sport at a club level was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make.  Yet ultimately, I found joy in my new free time and discovered that I was open to building better relationships with my peers at school.

As an alternative, I stayed involved with high school soccer and this year not only got to be on the girl’s varsity team but also was honored with being a captain.  

Now, I love the game more than ever.

It was an intense few months of school and sports.  While I didn’t struggle academically with my course load, I found new stressful challenges in abandoning toxic friendships, making life decisions about what I deem important, and learning to traverse the hard road to self-love and acceptance. I’m constantly discovering more about myself and my passions. Luckily, this year brought me new, powerful relationships and forced me to reevaluate my views.

Although I could never give justice to all the highs and lows of this past year, I am thankful for the hard times as well as the good for helping to shape me into a better person.  

With Sophomore year coming to a close, I can proudly admit that I am better prepared for the new obstacles ahead than I have ever been!

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