Tuesday, March 04, 2014

On High School, Hard Work, and Earning What We're Given

Let me tell you the outline of an average day for me during my senior year of high school:
6:00 a.m. -- the alarm went off as it tends to do and I rolled out of bed and immediately into the shower before I could fall back asleep.
7:17 a.m. -- the seventh grader I drove to school would show up at my door. If I was ready this was no problem, more often than not, however, I grabbed my backpack, keys, coat and a Pop-tart from my mom as I was on my way out of the door.
7:30 a.m. -- class started and I would be on time. Yes, every single day, I would be on time for my first period whether it was Physics or AP English Language I would be in my seat when the bell rang. I would put my phone away, I would take notes, and I would pay attention in class so that I could get good grades.
8:57 a.m. (to be honest, I don't totally remember all of the times because they were really random, but these are my best estimates) -- I went to my next class which I wouldn't be on time for because whether it was IB 20th Century Topics or Student Government I would have to stop by the Student Government room and make the school announcements, daily. If it was IB 20th Century Topics then I would take notes, I would have done my reading so I could participate in class discussions, and I would pay attention to make an effort. If it was Student Government I would take notes if needed, but usually I would spend the period making posters, planning canned food drives, or organizing school dances.
10:34 a.m. -- I would go to either AP Statistics or ProStart Catering. AP Statistics was more of me trying to take notes and follow along with the homework, which was, admittedly, very difficult for me because math is my worst subject -- but I never liked to let on that I was struggling in school, so I spent the better part of the period pretending I was doing well. In ProStart Catering, I was the incumbent captain of the Utah state Culinary Arts competitive team that had placed in the top ten at the national invitational the previous year. ProStart was the closest I had to a traditional elective class and it was my most stressful by far.
12:07 p.m. -- was lunch time. Most days, this was my favorite part of the day because I could go to lunch with my friends and actually spend time with them, which was rare. But, I didn't get to go to lunch everyday because most days I would have to skip lunch for a National Honor Society meeting, of which I was president, a Family Career and Community Leaders of America meeting of which I was co-president, a Mock Trial meeting of which I was president, a Model UN meeting of which I was secretary, a ProStart class meeting gone long, or a Club Presidents meeting.
12:50 ish p.m. -- I had one more class of the day which was either Seminary or AP Psychology, either way I would go and I would try to be on time and listen through the entire class.
2:15 p.m. -- school let out and I would usually go to the school's "courtyard" area for half an hour to see the boy I wanted to be my boyfriend but didn't have the time to actually date.
3:00 p.m. -- my day would start. In the fall I had Cross Country practice and could usually be home from school by around 4:30. In the winter I had ProStart practice and would usually be hard at work practicing until about 8 or 9.
8:00 p.m. -- on a good day, I would roll out of the foods' room about this time and would either go to dinner with the team (probably at Wendy's), eat leftovers from our practice, or hope my parents had left me some leftovers at home.
9:00 p.m. -- I would answer any texts that I'd gotten from my friends or from people wondering about one of the clubs I was involved in and I would then start my homework. Most nights, I would hope to be done by 11:00 but would be done more like 12:30. On some nights I would hope to be done by 12:30 and would be done closer to 2:00.
12:30 a.m. -- I wouldn't let myself even sit on my bed until all of my homework was done or else I would just go to sleep, which was kind of the best part of my day.

REPEAT.

Now, obviously I had weekends and I'd gotten pretty good and organizing my schedule so that I could have Friday nights free. Since I was involved with student government I would usually go to the football or basketball game and then to one of my friend's houses for a few hours before my 11:00 p.m. curfew which I was usually about a half hour late for. On Saturdays, I would typically have a ProStart practice or some other commitment in the morning and then my family would do a big lunch at around 3:00 or 4:00 before I would babysit for a family down the street from about 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. every week. I usually did some of my homework and texted my friends while I was babysitting, and tried my hardest not to fall asleep. On Sundays I had church from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. followed by family dinner, homework, and, honestly, T.V.

I'm not sharing this schedule to garner pity or sympathy. I'm certainly not writing this to give off the idea that I'm somehow better than other people because I'm hyper-involved. In fact, this schedule comes highly ill-advised from me.

It was stressful. I got headaches. Most nights I would come home and cry. I went through a period of two months where I vomited back everything I ate by the end of the day, purely out of stress. I didn't date. I didn't really "hang out". I didn't even do my homework as well as I would have liked most of the time. But I will never regret a moment of my high school experience.

I remember at the beginning of my junior year, when I really started to get involved in a lot of things. I remember wanting, more than anything, to make a difference. I wanted to be a legend because of the things that I did. Because of the hours upon hours of time I spent trying to better myself and others. I didn't really create the legacy I wanted.

I spent most of my senior year being mocked by people who thought I was intense or a taskmaster because I didn't have time for friends. I finished top-ten at two national championships after putting in enough time for first place, and came home utterly disappointed, just in time for AP tests. I was the state runner-up for Sterling Scholar, which means I came away with no scholarship money. I had to quit the Mock Trial team because I was too busy and exhausted to even read through the case before competition. I got stressed and snappy at my parents, my teammates, my classmates and my friends. I had to miss a lot of school because of all my commitments from all of my different clubs. I nearly didn't graduate from high school.

But, I finished third in my class and was admitted, on scholarship, to my first choice University. I qualified for two national invitationals. I passed six AP exams with a 4 or a 5. I made connections that secured me a job after graduation. I learned all about hard work, time management, and dedication. And, most importantly I learned that nothing in this world is free.

I entered University in a fantasy. I assumed that there would be others like me who are dedicated to doing the things that matter in order to succeed. I figured I would finally be done with people doing the bare minimum and then spending their time at parties or at dumb, meaningless social gatherings. I hoped that I would find myself at a school full of people who valued their education and actively looked for even more opportunities to join clubs or service organizations or volunteer to give back and do something truly meaningful. I have yet to find those people and I've started to lose hope that they exist.

The thing is, I've discovered, that the time for hard work is passing. No one wants to work hard. No one wants to go to bed exhausted every night from school and mental strain and not from having fun. Fun has never held any draw for me. Fun bores me. Fun is meaningless. Increasingly, I am in the minority of students who seem to feel this way.

This is my plea. My rather impassioned plea. "Do not go gently". Do not fear hard work. Do not allow yourselves to become complacent in a search for 'fun'. Because the things that matter are hard. The things that matter cause stress. The things that will give off a long lasting reward are hard.