Grade nine was a blur, filled with things like writing your first exams, prep for high school, choosing a high school, choosing your courses, etc. It adds up to a lot of pressure and stress. Do I want to be with all my friends and continue French immersion? Or do I want to try a different program like IB? Can I even handle the IB courses? What if I fail? According to guidance counsellors, this stressful process is called “growing up”. Oddly enough, the majority of my growing up that year wasn’t done in a classroom. It happened on a completely different continent for me.
In the midst of these life changing decisions, my debate partner and I managed to win a tournament. It just so happened to be a provincial tournament. This win led us down an unexpected pathway.
We were chosen to compete at an international debating tournament at Oxford University. It came as quite a shock. The entire process of raising money, planning out the trip, finding a second team to take with us was completely unreal to me. It felt like one minute I was being congratulated on the provincial win and then next, we were on a flight to the Gatwick Airport in England and then from there, on a train to the Royal National Hotel in London, England.
Being there was like being in all of my favourite movies. I took a walk down Diagon Alley and I even saw the courtyard they used for Harry Potter, as well. I saw where Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth had their kiss in Bridget Jones’ Diary, and of course Big Ben.
There was one very important thing we did though. We went to Kensington Gardens. This doesn’t sound all that important. London has tons of parks. Why is this one so special? This park happens to have the J.M. Barrie Memorial Statue of Peter Pan in it.
J.M. Barrie is one of my all time favourite writers. He was not only fascinating, but in his writing, he hit a universal theme that was true for all cultures and people, and that I had forgotten until then. Nobody wants to grow up.
When we start growing up, we are faced with decisions that need to be made, and if they’re made wrong , they come back to bite us later. The pressure this causes is enough to cause mental breakdowns in any junior high, no matter how fantastic its guidance counsellors are.
Maybe though, it’s not the act of growing up that brings this pressure, but rather, when we grow up, we have this false impression that things are expected of us, so in turn, we place the pressure on ourselves to try and meet these expectations.
Maybe we need to keep that childish part of ourselves, that believed anything was possible, and even if we don’t succeed, it is no big deal. Our world is still big and bright; nothing is going to end it. Even if you switch schools, everything would be fine.
Debating was great, as was shopping but the statue stuck with me. Soon enough, we were back at school. Deadline for course selections came, and I handed mine in, without problems or regret. The decision was a lot easier once all of the grown-up pressure was removed.
In the end I chose the school with a completely different program, and completely different people. I’m in grade eleven now, I’ve yet to switch a course or schools and I couldn’t be happier anywhere else.
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