The ticking of the clock echoed as the proctor passed. Classmates ripped into their exams as if their lives depended on it. I didn’t see why. I found myself focusing on one thought: Christmas break. Honestly, I made more than a few mistakes during my freshman year transition to high school, but who hasn’t? Failing to apply myself, however, should not have been one.
“Are you studying?” Mom asked.
Although I said, “I finished early,” I sat in the darkness in my cave of a room, engrossed in “educational” video games.
More than once I left the majority of my homework to be done on its due date. I fell into a torturous routine of applying just enough effort to sustain mediocrity and perfected my method of easy-riding. My greatest mistake freshman year was allowing that routine to paralyze me. While my peers ascended a spiral of growth, I remained anchored by a lack of motivation. I was trapped. My grades were on a steady decline, with most test scores in the low C range. Until then, I had made all As and Bs. The decline was gradual, yet undeniable.
Not only did I trap myself academically, but I also sheltered myself from the world at my fingertips. I constantly invented excuses to get out of seeing my friends and perfected yet another self-defeating skill: fibbing. As that fateful freshman year dragged on, the negative shadow overwhelmed me. I closed my eyes to escape the choices I’d made. But, rather than wallow in darkness, I opened my eyes, opened my schoolbooks, and called to my friends. It felt like a pierce of lightning. The flash was blinding, yet beckoning.
I poured into quadratic equations, biological evolution, rhetoric. The change was overwhelmingly sudden. In every morning shower I remotivated myself to endure. I kept in touch with friends at school and approached new people. I applied for four honors classes and worked in advance on assignments. The discovery of a hidden enthusiasm is inspiring. I now understand and will always remember this truth: getting off the couch and walking out the door reaps innumerable benefits. This freshman epiphany changed my life. Now, rather than stagnating in my room, I am vice-president of student council, singing solos in choir, starring in musicals, and excelling in classes.
Sunlight pours through the window as my eyes dissect the paper before me. No one remains in the room: no peers, no proctor, no high school, and no world, just the blue book labeled “Sophomore Honors Algebra Exam.” A school party will erupt afterward, but for now that is irrelevant. I briefly recall my freshman alter ego, unfocused and eager to escape school. I repeat the prayer “Holy Spirit enlighten me” three times - a Mother’s advice - and I tear into the equations within.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.