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I cried almost every night of junior year. Sometimes, they were quiet tears. But mostly, I sobbed. Everyone knows the unspoken rule: “Don’t mess up junior year.” But what happens if you break it?

Last year, AP Chemistry shoved me into the darkest of corners. Because I couldn’t understand the material, devotedly, every Monday and Wednesday, November through May, I lived at extra help. Every night, I diligently reviewed my notes and soaked countless worksheets in tears, amidst attempting practice problems. Trembling, to the backdrop of classmates whining about “almost getting a 100,” I’d peek at my tests in shame—78, 84, 69, and once, even a 57. Last-period chemistry meant leaving school daily with a heavy conviction: I am a failure.

After an agonizing year, my first-ever B+ and an all-too-ironic-5 on the AP meant nothing to me. What did matter though, was that I was broken: fear of failure had contaminated every corner of my life.

Somehow, I needed to heal. I needed to believe in—and find—myself again. I couldn’t let Fear win anymore.

And so, I confronted my biggest fear: enrolling in AP Physics.

So far, though it’s not easy, physics fascinates me. When it gets challenging, I remind myself that I can do it, and everything becomes a little more do-able. My thirst for learning has finally returned; I’ve missed it so, so much.

Last year, I cowered in fear: don’t mess up, don’t mess up. Today, I instead live by: don’t be afraid.

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