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De-Stressing: For Best Results, Take a Step Backwards

November, 2009
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Welcome to a typical Sunday night of a typical high school student. The clock’s ticking. The hour hand seems to be making a dash towards the menacing looking one. One A.M. It’s already one A.M and you still have to study for your Advanced Placement Economics and Advanced Placement Literature tests. Failure is not an option.

You’re a junior in high school and the next two years of high school will determine whether or not you’re spending the rest of your life living in the back of your van or enjoying the sun in an over-priced yacht. Finally, the clock hits two, your body is pulling you towards the bed and as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re out like a light. The next morning, you wake up half an hour late, trip out of bed, scramble around to get ready and then fly downstairs so you don’t miss the bus. You already know that your week will be filled with tests, quizzes, essays and numerous homework assignments.

It’s only the beginning of November. The first quarter of the school year has come and gone and there are three more quarters to get through before the wonders of summer can arrive. You already want to pull out and be done. Your brain has been fried numerous times over the past three months and all your body wants to do is to fall over and hibernate for a year. No such luck. There are extracurricular activities needed for your transcript, honors classes, AP/IB classes, ACT, SAT and most importantly, a social life. Is it possible to fit everything into your life? There are only twenty four hours in a day and eight of those are spent at school, the rest on homework, outside activities and dozing off at unusual intervals while attempting to “study”. You’d have to be Superman and Batman combined with a sprinkle of magic dust to pull off such a stupendous feat. Or do you?

Let’s face the truth. All students who keep themselves glued to textbooks all day and scribbling annotations in the tiny one-inch margins may want to turn 180 degrees and see the other side of their situation. Are you constantly stressing, fretting, biting your lips, grinding your teeth, and spending hours sitting at your desk wondering how to bring your 3.7 GPA to a 4.0 or perpetually banging your head on a textbook?

Take a breath. Relax. Kick back in your chair (just don’t fall off). Twirl your pencil around and do a few toe touches. You’ve probably heard this phrase numerous times before but here we go: There’s more to your teenage life than studying. Find a passion and do what you love. You’re only young once. And it’s true. This isn’t to say that you should start a bonfire and chant savagely as your rip your school books into shreds and set them alight. No, there’s a reason this institution of tortuous educational mechanisms was invented and withstands all the hatred that students from all over the world direct towards it.

The pressure may not just be from you of course. There are parents out there who push their children to do the best they can. This might be the sole reason you are reading this article. You’re sick of your parents shaking their heads discouragingly when you tell them you’re going to hang out with your friends instead of burrowing your face into your Calculus textbook and learning 247 new equations by five o’clock that night. You’re sick of the fact you can’t join the basketball team because, according to your parents, sports are a waste of time and will in no way benefit your future. You’re sick of being reprimanded for spending hours watching your favorite shows or chatting with your friends online. This is your life. Yet, you still feel obliged to keep a healthy GPA score and continually pad your transcript with Key Club, Interact, Student Council and whatever other groups crazy high school students come up with. Take control of your life.

There is a stereotype that Asian parents are the most demanding out there — constantly asking for perfect 100’s from imperfect human beings who just want to live a little. Not everyone has a brain that can be turned into a math equating machine transporting data at the speed of light. Every good student out there wants to get into an Ivy League college. Harvard, Brown, UPenn, Princeton, Yale; you name it. But it’s not that easy. If there were 100 students in the world, about 50 of those students would have grades up to Ivy League standards and only one of those 50 could be chosen to enter into the historical doors of a demanding yet enticing education. Everyone needs to stand out. Not everyone will turn out to be lawyers, plastic surgeons or an amazingly successful entrepreneur. To survive in this world, you need ideas, imagination and creativity.

What if you turn out be an amazing script writer and film director earning millions of dollars just by producing the blockbuster of the summer? Those hours you’ve spent watching Freaks and Geeks in the dark of the night don’t seem so useless after all. Or what if you turn out to have a passion for dancing and end up performing in extravagant shows on Broadway and having your face plastered on large billboards in New York? Those nights you’ve spent gawking at dancers on So You Think You Can Dance don’t seem like a waste of time anymore. Maybe you turn out to be a great basketball player and are able to dunk by the age of 13. If you spend enough time practicing, you could make a living off playing basketball in front of large crowds and filming commercials for Nike. There’s a chance for everything and by holding back, not only are you short-changing yourself, but society may have lost a hugely beneficial star.

Now, what was the point of this enormous 1000 word essay that has taken up about seven minutes of your precious life during which you could have been reading up about Galileo Galilei? It’s November. This November will come and go. This school year will come and go and as long as you’re on a slow and steady path, there is no need to fret. No one can be the best at everything. It is virtually, literally, scientifically, physically and psychologically impossible. We’re all made and created to live and learn from one another. You need to de-stress. Why not jump into bed right now and take a nap? It may be well-deserved and well-needed (especially if you’ve been fervently reading this article looking for ways to ease your stressful life style). Take short breaks when you study. Drink water to keep yourself awake. Remember: eating sugar at night will bring your energy up to a maximum point and before you can finish reading about opportunity costs, you’ll be snoozing on your Economics textbook.

I can’t tell you how to reform your life or write out a packet of Post-It notes that will miraculously give you the perfect life. You have to do that yourself. What do you want to do in your life? Stop. If you’re thinking: "Well, my mommy and daddy dearest would very much appreciate it if I become a world-renowned surgeon", you have officially learned nada. You have to take life into your own hands. In 10 years time, that one test you took that ruined your GPA won’t matter the slightest. In fact, it may have been wiped off the face of the Earth. Now, stop reading this article and do something! Do a few more of those toe touches and a few back flips. Who knows? Maybe you’re the next gymnast your national team has been waiting to recruit!

By Julia Zhu


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