As someone who finished Year 12 just last year, I feel that I’m qualified to say that my experiences are still very, very raw.

I’m going to be honest now, Year 12 was bloody hard. And not just “I had a lot of assignments” hard but real life hard. The memories, the experiences and the life lessons I learnt during Year 12 have left a much stronger mark on me than any history fact or math formula.

I always gave school 110%, and by the time I hit Year 12, my highly strung, you-cannot-get-less-than-100% brain decided to ramp it up even more. I was drowning in my own desire to succeed, my own inherent need to get full marks on every assessment, regardless of the impacts that it had on myself and my family. I was that kid who studied every day–I barely went out with friends, I missed family events so I could do homework and I spent every minute of every day thinking about what I had to learn and how many hours of study I could fit into that afternoon.

It wasn’t fun, but I could never physically bring myself to just take a step back and rest every once in a while–it just wasn’t me.

But, halfway through Year 12, my uncle took his own life and I began to look at myself, my obsession with marks and ranks and tests, and I realised that there were way more important things I should be focusing on.

Instead of school, I should have been making strong relationships with my friends and family and, most importantly, looking after myself – something I had neglected to do for a very long time. While I think it’s important to always try your best in everything you do, looking back at my time in high school, I honestly wish I had actually enjoyed myself a little more.

I wish I had gone on late night Kmart runs, I wish that I went to people’s house parties, I wish that I didn’t wait until after high school to get my Ps, I wish that I woke up early to see a sunrise instead of waking up early to lock myself in my room to study. I wish that I had let myself have fun rather than shutting out my friends, my family and my wellbeing so that I could study for those final exams.

So, my message to those who push themselves so hard to achieve good marks is simple. School may seem like the most important thing in your life right now–and in some aspects it is–but remember that your own wellbeing is far more valuable than any letter or number on an exam paper.

Know that there is more to life than just school and that things will always work out in the end–even if you feel as if your life is falling apart right now (trust me, I’ve been there).

Year 12 is a wild year. It’s the end of an era but it’s also a chance to prepare yourself for a new beginning. You’ll learn so many things in the classroom, but the most valuable lessons I took out of Year 12 were things that no textbook or slideshow could teach you.

Work hard, but more importantly, live your goddamn life. 

by Alicia Brecknell