School has become a competition. A competition of who’s been beaten down by the most commitments, of who’s the most sleep deprived. Depression and anxiety are romanticized and viewed as side effects of hard work. The busiest students, myself included, pride themselves on taking every AP class they can, even in subject matter they hate.
Why has this become the norm? The answer: a defense mechanism. We joke about depression to avoid its harsh realities, and laugh over getting less than four hours of sleep because we feel we had no choice in the matter to begin with.
This defense mechanism of laughing off or even bragging about living the most unhappy, unhealthy life possible is born from extreme pressure to portray that we are working hard. Over committing ourselves and sacrificing sleep causes stress, no doubt, but to us, the stress of being deemed “lazy” is far worse.
School has become a competition of who can live the worst life possible now with the promise of living the best life possible in the future, and the fact of the matter is, it isn’t even our fault. We were trained to live this way out of fear of failure. We are aware that almost everyone around us is reaching for the exact same thing we are: a college degree and a respectable job.
This way of thinking not only leads to burnout at a young age, but holds us back from truly meaningful experiences. We drop out of classes when we learn we are not guaranteed an A, knowing that although a challenge would help us grow, colleges won’t see that growth in a C on our transcripts.
We cheat our way through difficult classes because the promise of a degree to wave in other people’s faces as proof of our hard work is worth more to us than actually working hard. Who has time to put in actual effort when already weighed down by extracurriculars, work and volunteering anyway?
A change is obviously necessary, but it’s difficult to move away from the habit of overcommitment and perfectionism when it seems those two practices are the only way to have success later in life.
We have to stop viewing life as a competition of who is putting up the strongest facade of hard work. We have to learn that devoting our time to what we truly care about rather than building a laundry list of hard classes and extracurriculars will not only make us more content, but maybe for once allow us to get a whopping seven hours of sleep instead of four.