School spirit: High school finals and New Years failures

Kevin Styba-Nelson is a Grade 12 student at Princess Margaret Secondary School in Penticton

Like a kitten playing in front of an open fire, this time of year is often deeply heartwarming and acutely stressful.

Whether it’s extended family, gift-giving, or just the glut of food, every piece of the holidays seems to conjure up wholesome and/or horrible memories depending on who you ask. Regardless of your opinions of the festivities, it all seems to get washed away with the deafening ringing in of the new year. But as soon as that ball drops in New York, we all end up feeling like we’ve dropped the ball as well. And while our gluttony and glee turn to guilt, we scramble to find and hold our new years resolutions.

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Now as a high school student, I still get to enjoy the greatest holiday bonus anyone could ever wish for; two whole uninterrupted weeks off. Though we don’t have to pay for it with planning any family gatherings or trying to read children’s illegible letters to Santa, we do have a rather extreme lead up to the break to contend with. We have our basketball players fitting in games and tournaments, the concert and jazz bands playing the annual Christmas concert, the theatre students up and down the valley in a choral performance with the South Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, leadership students orchestrating the senior winter formal dance, teachers piling tests and assignments before we break, and all of that happening in the 72 hours before we get to leave Princess Margaret Secondary School. But that stress melts away the second the clock strikes three right?

You see, just like that imposing feeling of needing to be a better person that sits waiting to hit people on Jan. 1, so too does January hold that little slap in the face that are exams. And exams may be the best metaphor for new years resolutions that can be drawn. A single-minded effort to prove that we are better than we have been the last year. A way to atone for how we feel we’ve been dropping the ball. But whether it’s for eating nothing but cake and doing all of our shopping Christmas Eve, or a diet consisting primarily of coffee and handing in every assignment late, we all pledge come January we’ll make up for it. And of course, most of the time, we end up dropping the ball on that as well. Which, in all honesty, is OK.

Now I am definitely not here to tell you how you were perfect all along and the only thing you did wrong was try to change yourself in the first place. I don’t need to say that, because I have nothing to sell you, so I don’t need you to buy into that to pay me. The fact of it is, none of us are perfect. And for all the guilt of New Year’s resolutions and all the cramming for exams, even if we end up failing, that drive to do better is a truly beautiful thing. If wanting to be a better person is a crime, then lock all but the soul crushingly mundane up. And I just do not want to live in that world of carnival workers and backup dancers. So take something you want to improve and work hard for it, safe in the knowledge that drive may be the most important part.

And if you’re rolling into 2019 with a pile of studying, a pipe dream, and quite possibly even a pounding headache, own it. Because win or lose, we all love a fresh start and a chance to do better.

Kevin Styba-Nelson is a Grade 12 student at Princess Margaret Secondary School and a regular contributor on high school life and events for the Penticton Western News.

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