New running shoes are the first sign of the coming school year. I get them a few weeks before classes start, giving me enough time to break them in before I have to wear them for fitness class every day. After I’ve landed the perfect pair, everything else comes in like an avalanche: new textbooks, highlighters and notebooks from the office supply store, emails from teachers detailing their expectations for the new year. The late-summer days seem to fly by. It’s a little terrifying.

People keep telling me that 11th grade is the hardest year and also the most important. It’s the year of standardized tests and visiting colleges and giving up your free periods to study. People get jobs or internships and start trying to formulate answers to the question “So, what do you want to do with your life?” I’ll be expected to somehow juggle getting good grades, doing sports, and having friends and a life.

College has been looming on the horizon for a while. I feel like from here on out, it’s sink or swim. I need to stay focused and stay on top of my stress levels.

I wonder if I should try to sound less overwhelmed about all this. I wonder if I should try to feel less overwhelmed by it. I keep reminding myself that tomorrow, when I lace up my new shoes and head outside for my daily run, it will still be summer. ♦