As a student in Year 12, I love having more freedom than I did a year ago - having free periods to study in peace, being able to leave early, and of course the control over my own subjects. Yet, I cannot help but remember how it felt to be in Year 11 this time last year. In fact, not only do I remember it, but I deeply miss it.

Being in Year 12 and finally feeling grown up, I have relished the independence given to me (kind of ironic, I know). I am no longer bound by uniform and can flaunt my phone freely instead of keeping it in a locker. Along with these new opportunities, though, comes stress as countless people have told me that A-Levels are somewhat the hardest part of education. This, along with the knowledge that I am in Year 12 and not Year 13 - therefore, I am in some unusual, limbo-esque intermediary year between the head of Key Stage 4 and the head of Key Stage 5 - makes me reminisce about times where I was in the top of secondary school and things seemed better.

The stress of 3 rounds of mock tests and not even being sure if we were doing our GCSE exams because of Covid-19 was definitely stressful, don’t be mistaken. Yet, it was the knowledge that amidst all this stress, I had my friends and had a more or less secure spot back in the sixth form. There was structure there, with no random free periods where I had to rely on myself and relied a lot on my teachers to help me improve. It was a secure place where nothing was ever out of the ordinary or was too daunting because it was different. Now, the stress has only heightened and it seems like almost every day I hear something new like UCAS or references or personal statements, and it seems like there are more universities to think about than there are teeth in a shark’s mouth.

Yet, I am aware that I am not as limited now as I was then and am able to blossom and flourish as I please. It’s important to understand that stress is a part of life, and instead of staying stuck in the past to when things were simpler and black and white, I must appreciate my present and be excited for my future. Between that black and white, there’s some sort of grey, middle ground: I’d like to think more about how it’s not just some boring, unimportant medium, but a place that allows for flexibility and freedom. This is what Year 12 is, and although I miss Year 11, I must keep looking forward and welcome these new opportunities.