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“Teagan, you have to choose; it’s coming up quickly. You don't have much time.” So much anxiety and anger occurred whenever anybody said that to me. I knew I had to make a decision, but it was so difficult.

I was never really fond of school. My parents did not want me getting anything below a C most of the time, though they made exceptions. I never really liked school just because I always felt anxious - for many reasons. Reasons like getting called out in front of the class, talking to teachers, or getting bad grades because I thought there would be consequences. By seventh grade I was ready to graduate.

Once I began high school, the anxiety got worse. I was in a larger school, grades started to matter more, classes were harder, and I felt overwhelmed by all of the homework. In the middle of my sophomore year the pandemic began. Even though I was given packets to learn the content, I felt as if the pandemic was a vacation from school. It was relaxing to finally get away from my worries.

Not going out in public during the pandemic was enjoyable for me. I started to value nature more. I was walking my dog every day, my mom and I sat on the porch for hours just talking during the warm nights, and I spent a ton of time exploring new trails to walk. After this long break I could not imagine myself going back to school for another two years.

I was stress free. I never wanted to go back to school. I always knew there was a way to graduate early by doing some extra classes during the summer and then completing the rest of the classes my junior year so I could graduate that summer. Towards the end of my sophomore year I considered graduating with the junior class. At the time this felt like the best option. I would graduate early and then go to college and be done earlier. I was very close to going through with this option until I began to really think about it.

Graduating early sounded amazing, but what would I be missing out on? I would miss going to prom with my best friends, the senior picnic, and even meeting all the new people with whom I have made friends. Suddenly, I was not concerned about my grades, getting called on in class, or talking to my teachers. I was fearful about what I would regret once I got older. I was worried I would never forgive myself for purposely missing out on all of the senior activities.

With self-reflection I realized I was rushing to grow up just because I was letting my fears get the best of me. I realized that my anxiety will never go away. I should not rush this little bit of time I get to be a teenager just to become an adult and be even more anxious than I am in high school.

I made the final decision not to graduate early and just go through my junior and senior years step by step. I had a lot of doubts about my decision, but now that I look back, I am grateful. I made the right decision for myself. I'm currently experiencing all of these senior activities like cap and gown pictures, getting straight A's, and being recognized as a senior. All of my worries about my grades, getting called out, or talking to my teachers are suddenly gone. Now I am content, happy, and stress free. I am the best version of myself.

© Teagan Baxa. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.