On the first day of kindergarten I didn’t know what to expect; playtime was now scheduled

between certain hours and, in order to sit in the circle with the other kids, you needed to pass the test of finding your name.

These were hard times in the eyes of a five-year-old. However, I got used to sharing the sandpit and raising my hand when I had a question.

I realize now — these rules were meant to raise me to be a well-mannered, intelligent woman able to take on the world. One school year bled into the next.

At first it was: “You’d better behave, because Grade 2 is really hard.”

Grade 7 was supposedly harder than Grade 6, and suddenly I found myself at the first day of high school, waiting for allegedly the hardest year yet.

The first thought that crossed my mind when I stepped into high school was how big it was. Lockers lined each hallway like rows of guards, and throughout the skinny corridors were pods of sweaty teenagers.

Walking through there smelled like a combination of sandwiches and too much cologne.

Then the shrill scream of a bell and an avalanche of students busted out of doorways left, right and centre, sending the oncecalm hallway into a tizzy of muffled conversations and flying papers.

I remember looking up at the grade 12s and noticing how tall and old they looked. I made a mental note not to mess with them.

I didn’t have much luck with friends the first week of high school. I remember walking down the hallway during lunch and every time someone from my grade came by, I’d duck into one of the many pods of people.

I’d temporarily pretend to be a part of their friend group until the wave of my grade left. I thought this pattern would never end but eventually, as all things do, it did. I made friends and settled into life as a high school student.

I am now entering Grade 12, my last year of high school and the beginning of my future. I now realize the hallways smell more like perfume and janitorial soap and the bell is more like an invitation to go to class, not exactly a do-or-die situation. Furthermore, as I look at my fellow senior classmates, I realize that we are in no way as big and tall as I thought we were going to be.

Thanks to kindergarten, I know my name backward and forward.

Thanks to Grade 4, I can draw a mean pumpkin patch, and due to the experiences in high school, I can deal with any math and chemistry problem you throw my way. That is, if there’s an occasional multiple choice question thrown in!

I’ve finally made it to the home stretch. The imminent chat on day one of how Grade 12 will be the hardest year yet is sure to be awaiting me, but I now know better than to be nervous.

I’ve learned that every year gets a little harder, but thanks to the lessons I’ve learned in years prior, I know I will be ready for the challenge.