Times change, as do expectations

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Graphic by Suzanna Creasey

It’s easy to be involved in extracurricular activities. It’s easy to keep decent grades. It’s easy to do both and get eight hours of sleep every night. Maybe if we repeat these lines enough times, they’ll be true.

These lighthearted statements have become the essence of a concept of an ideal student. In our quest to fulfill this standard, we suffer from late hours cramming to finish work, countless rushed meals in the effort to squeeze more time into our busy schedules and days without adequate time to ourselves or our families.

Whether students are enrolling in rigorous academic classes and participating in time-consuming activities out of genuine interest, for the sake of padding college applications, or due to peer and parental pressures, all students should understand that they shouldn’t feel inferior for being unable to juggle the same amount of challenges as one of their peers. We must remember that colleges do not seek a student overloaded with random clubs, but instead a student dedicated in a few areas of interest to them. Our academic aspirations, coupled with the expectations of our extracurricular activities, can morph our chosen commitments into what feels like a rigid framework for our lives.

Though many coaches, teachers and parents have our best interests in mind when pushing us to excel in academics, extracurricular activities or otherwise, everyone should take into consideration that pressures between our generations may appear similar in nature, but not in experience. The activities may go by the same names they went by 40 years ago, but the expectations involved and the gravity of their influence on students is immensely stronger.

While one’s GPA may have been viewed as a simple indicator of progress, it now seems like the determinant of one’s entire future. While a playoff game may have been an exciting highlight of one’s athletic career, it now carries the weight of the recruiters in the stands. While a sleepless night may have been an occasional occurrence, it has now become routine.

As we push ourselves closer to the edge of sanity, we forget that our choices to pursue our interests aren’t meant to take precedence over our current happiness. Rather, the activities we choose to practice both inside and outside of school should be fulfilling additions to our lives. If they no longer provide any further enrichment for us, then we must consider why we continue to persist along these stress-inducing paths. If we view activities as what experiences, relationships and knowledge we gain, rather than the time we lose to partake in the activities, then they won’t become a heavier burden on our shoulders.

Just as previous generations before us have done, we too should be able to happily enjoy the many benefits of our youth, unencumbered by the burden of our current social, academic or outside pressures.

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Times change, as do expectations