Getting A's Are Never Worth Losing Zzz's (and Other Lessons)
As I went back to school this September, I’ll admit I was worried. I was a high school sophomore and I felt like I had already burned out.
You know the kind of burnout that’s usually associated with college students cramming during all-nighters? It crept up on me last year to the point where I was in a routine of sleep, school, and scrolling through Insta. Basically, watching life from the sidelines (or the library, more literally) as others enjoyed their high school experience.
Even though I was just a freshman, I fell into a vicious cycle where I stayed up late, and then slept through the day and started homework late at night. I couldn’t do any of the art projects that I enjoyed, and I was too exhausted to hang out with my friends. When school finally got out, I spent most of my summer inside, exhausted both emotionally and physically, dreading the day when I had to go back to class.
When I finally found a semblance of balance in August, it was time to start school again. I immediately fell into my old habits, but this time I couldn’t even manage to do homework. I started leaving assignments uncompleted and cramming for tests at the very last minute. I made passing grades, but I was deeply unhappy. I am in a double-block AP class and two honors classes. I have 7 periods a day that are completely filled with academics, and most days I feel like I’m fully underwater. It’s not right.
Yes, it is not the biggest injustice that this world has ever seen, but it is something that many students go through. For those of us who are privileged enough to get an education, it is just too much.
Parents reminisce about their own education, commenting on the heavy load that we have “these days.” They tell me they are impressed that I work so hard. But I am not impressed with myself. I am disgusted. Last year, I poisoned my body. It was toxic to my physical and mental health. And this year, I’m right back where I was.
It is not just teachers that assign too much homework, and it is not just students who freak out too much about their grades; it is a system that prioritizes letters on a grade sheet over actual intelligence and creativity.
I can take the multiple honors classes and pass my AP exams, but is it worth it if it’s at the expense of my well-being? Where will that A grade really get me? A good college? A college that I will arrive to depressed and exhausted, barely able to function?
I refuse to accept this. I was terrified of failure and I quantified failure as anything below an A. Now I know better, and I want you to know that failure is letting go of things that matter to you.
I am someone who has “failed” by my own standards of grades, yet I am alive and working towards happiness. I am learning to do better when it comes to balancing my school and my life.
Life is not a culmination of degrees. Life is about late-night drives with friends. It’s about doing something you are passionate about and making yourself a better person. I hope that if you are struggling, then you can decide whether striving for amazing grades really passes that test.
By Grace Fiori, 15