It sounds weird to say that I have survived my first semester of junior year through romanticizing otherwise seemingly boring tasks — like studying for classes and completing assignments. However, I believe that embracing the state of being a student has allowed me to develop an enriched mindset and achieve success; even during what most people would consider to be the most difficult year of high school. During my previous summer, I was more than nervous for the new school year — a global pandemic and my heavy course load of AP classes did not assist in that fear. 

I believe that the key to success, at least for me, was found through aesthetics centered around the scholastic experience, mainly the dark academia aesthetic. 

So what is dark academia? I would describe it as centering around muted color tones, universities, classical literature and art, desire for knowledge, and most importantly the discipline of self-discovery. 

The romanticization of academic pursuits started well before our current understanding, which is centered around academic-based works and media. Our current concept of dark academia is rooted in the visual imagery as well, hallmarks of the professional academic. Tweed, leather, linen are part of the uniform; coffee, tea, wine become the food and drink. These all have their roots in the concept of the academy or institute. 

Modern dark academia is marked by creative works such as “Dead Poets Society” by Tom Schulman, “Harry Potter (1-7)” by J.K. Rowling, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, “1984” by George Orwell, and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll to name a few. Many works considered to represent the dark academia aesthetic are from romantic, dystopian, and fantasy genres that are characterized by themes of valuing discovery and education. 

Ever since I was young, I have had a fascination with gaining knowledge and learning more about the world. Being a shy and introverted child, during my elementary school years I would often spend time reading and daydreaming during recess and class time. However, during middle school and early high school I found myself in a slump; I no longer had the time to read for fun and learn for enjoyment. 

However, at the end of my sophomore year when I was deciding what classes I would be taking during my junior year, I chose to sign up for several AP courses. When people asked me what classes I would be taking, I would tell them my course list, which would get some interesting responses.

One of my friends who was finishing their junior year at the time told me that my workload was “literally a death wish,” which I shrugged off and laughed about. On the outside, I remained somewhat confident, but on the inside I feared at least lots of tears. 

Over the summer, I came to embrace the high school experience through the discovery of academic-based aesthetics. Seeing romanticized versions of learning and studying had actually helped me to feel less worried about junior year, and made me feel capable of success. Out of all of my years in high school, so far junior year has been the year where I’ve gotten the best grades, learned the most, and been the happiest; contrary to many people’s expectations of 11th grade.

I would like to contribute my growth and self-reflection to the global pandemic that we are currently facing, oddly enough. Staying at home and in my own thoughts has allowed for me to develop into a better person and gain an appreciation for life. And of course with more time at home, I’ve been spending more time online, which is often seen as bad (particularly by older generations). However, I believe that technology can be an important tool for research and learning new things; and I have been using it to self-study and discover new topics that interest me. 

It may be 2020, but what exactly is stopping us from pursuing knowledge and having fun while doing so? Take pleasure in things such as researching random topics that interest you in between completing homework assignments, develop a caffeine addiction from drinking tea and coffee (with caution), find happiness in reading poems outside of your English classes, relax while reading books illuminated by candlelight, wear that dramatic coat or button up shirt paired with a face mask out to the grocery store, get excited when your screen turns green while playing Kahoot in class, and most importantly savor the little things in life.

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