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Realizing Your Limits

by Katianna Mansfield, Forest Hills Public Schools

Signing up for classes to take the following year, the year you haven’t even begun to think about, is exceptionally challenging when faced with the repercussions of your decisions once it actually comes to arrive.

The single week you have prior to the school year is somewhat helpful, but you cannot truly conceptualize its effect on you until it falls into your lap with the ultimate force of an AP textbook the week after the deadline finality.

My biggest problem with this year was that the way my schedule was organized, I no longer loved school. For the first three days, I dreaded my awakening, the first hour, the second hour, every hour after that, until I could go home and fall asleep and simply procrastinate thinking about it for hours. I had done what every counselor warns you about and overloaded myself with classes when I heard the threatening term: “junior year.”

Editor’s note: School News Network encourages student voices. Those in any Kent ISD school may submit writing that has been approved and copyedited by a teacher to snn@kentisd.org. This opinion piece previously appeared in the Central Trend, the news site of students at Forest Hills Central High School.

Katianna Mansfield
Katianna Mansfield

With two AP classes in a row, one of which I was taking for the sole purpose of credits, a world history I would have loved had I not been exhausted from my first two hours, ASL level three, algebra two, and my writing for publication class, by the end of the day I was fried and unhappy.

It was difficult for me to determine whether I had taken on too much, or if I was just experiencing the slow drag of the first week of school. No previous years had felt the same, I was always ecstatic to begin the school year, and the first week was full of passion and a desire for knowledge that pushed me through the rest of the year.

Entering my junior year, however, was a difficult feat. I had been anxiously avoiding the thought of this year since seventh grade, enlightening in my few years of freedom before it became messy. Sitting in the media center choosing classes to take this year was difficult; all of my teachers had recommended higher level or AP courses, so I figured if they thought I could handle them, then I would be able to.

That is, until a 3 a.m. homework session on the second day of school sparked one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever experienced.

Crawling into my mother’s bed, hyperventilating with tears streaming down my face, begging her to let me stay home the next day — the third day of school — is one of my lowest points. I’ve experienced so much worse in life, but this was one of the few times I could not stand myself.

I didn’t appreciate the person I was becoming. Waking up irritable, going to school exhausted, complaining the whole day, leaving school with a pounding headache, arriving home grumpy and snapping at my family all night, bursting into tears when homework time rolled around. I was a blubbering mess and terrified to ask for help.

But during this early morning panic attack, I reached a point where I needed to do something or I wasn’t going to be OK. I couldn’t push myself any more than I had. So yes, at 3 a.m., I emailed my counselor about switching my schedule. At first I was only going to switch out of one AP class, but after a duration of time, I realized it was best I resign from both because it wasn’t a combined problem, it was the courses as a whole that made me unhappy. In accepting the challenge of an advanced class, I was no longer searching for more knowledge, but the promise of an impressive college application.

A college diploma may be my reward, but it is not my driving factor. If I hold that piece of paper to more value than my education, I will miss out on so many more lessons in life.

My thirst for knowledge is a rare trait, and I know that, so I want to keep it thriving. I don’t want to take filler classes to get credits, I want to enter a world of new information that I am genuinely interested in.

After my day off resting from the panic attack, I walked straight into the counseling office and changed my schedule. Working together with my counselor to fix the brokenness inside myself one switch at a time, I realized that the only person who can decide your limits for you is you.

You are constantly told not to acknowledge those who tell you that you cannot, but they never tell youabout the people who say you can. The ones who believe in you so wholeheartedly that they don’t recognize your restrictions as an individual. The ones who tell you you are settling when you are simply trying your best with what you have.

I’ve always accepted the ideas of every person I come into contact with, foolishly taking their word as gospel because they are a peer on the same level of warranted respect as I am. It has taken me this long, and I will continue to learn it as I make the same mistakes over and over again, to realize that I am allowed to have a maximum. I am able to choose what I can and cannot handle. Four advanced classes? Too many for Katianna Mansfield, and I will admit that entirely because I believe everyone should be able to.

It has been a difficult road to acceptance, and I’m still somewhat disappointed in myself for not being able to handle the “more,” but that will diffuse in time.

I can say with certainty that I now wake up every morning excited for the day ahead of me, because I am again filled with the profound curiosity that I once had.

I had to realize my limits and accept them as they were in order to understand myself, and that is not something to be ashamed of.

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