The high school senior year marks a significant milestone in the journey of adolescence, filled with anticipation for graduation and the excitement of stepping into adulthood. It is a time when we expect to have a clear sense of who we are, what we want to achieve, and how we plan to conquer the world. However, as Valentina, a high school student from Gran Canaria, Spain, finds herself on the cusp of turning 18, the reality of newfound autonomy is met with a mix of exhilaration and trepidation. In this article, she reflects on the challenges and lessons of senior year, exploring themes of responsibility, self-discovery, and the importance of self-compassion.

The Weight of Turning 18

Hi! I’m Valentina! Born in Venezuela but raised in Spain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, I have enjoyed a vastly international upbringing that has left me with a network of friends all around the world. I am currently finishing my A-Levels in Gran Canaria with the hopes of pursuing my love for writing and media in Rotterdam this year.

Turning 18 is undoubtedly a significant milestone, granting us rights and privileges previously inaccessible. The freedom to vote, drive, and serve on a jury comes with a sense of empowerment that once seemed alluring. However, as I stand on the threshold of adulthood, the weight of this newfound power can feel overwhelming. Doubts creep in, questioning our readiness to handle the responsibilities that come with it. The fear of facing unforeseen challenges without the safety net of our parents’ guidance looms large. Yet, amid these fears, it is crucial to recognize that everyone stumbles and fails along the way. Embracing the inevitability of failure allows us to learn and grow, ultimately shaping our paths toward success.

A Senior Year of Responsibility

Senior year has shattered the perception of school as merely an academic realm, revealing a vibrant community that extends far beyond the classroom. The involvement in student council activities, such as organizing events and engaging with external organizations, offers a surreal glimpse into our maturity and growing responsibilities. The realization that we, as “older kids,” are entrusted with the reins of influence and agency brings both pride and a heightened sense of accountability. Our collective efforts, together with the guidance of teachers, give birth to a diverse range of activities, fostering a vibrant and inclusive school environment. Moreover, the opportunity to become a tutor provides a unique perspective on personal growth as we pass on our experiences and wisdom to younger students, thus further bolstering our sense of independence.

Learning to Cope with Burnout

However fulfilling these responsibilities may be, they are not without their share of stress. Balancing academics, extracurricular commitments, and personal pursuits demands a delicate equilibrium. For many of us, the transition to senior year necessitates recalibrating our routines, squeezing more activities into the same twenty-four hours. This realization can be overwhelming, leading to self-imposed pressures and a constant battle for perfection. Yet, it is crucial to recognize the detrimental effects of this approach. Understanding the importance of self-compassion and granting ourselves room for mistakes becomes paramount in cultivating a healthier relationship with the school and managing stress. Acknowledging that it is not a competition between grades and personal fulfillment allows us to embrace self-care, indulging in hobbies and activities that rejuvenate and inspire us.


This is the biggest lesson I take from my senior year. Learning to be kinder to myself and to give me a wider margin of error has been key in improving my relationship with the school and the cloud of stress I’ve associated with it. The process is not as lovely as it sounds of course; it takes time, patience and honesty (primarily with yourself) to dismantle the harmful tendencies you have hammered into habits. It’s also constant and is something I’m still working on improving today by taking time away from academics and investing it into myself, into the activities that I left by the wayside: painting, baking, and exercising. All things that give me something to look forward to every week, a space to disconnect. And I’m all the better for it.