Go Insane, Go Insane? The Extent of Stress at Latin

Blaike Young A majority of high school students experience the same amount of stress as insane asylum patients did in the 1950s. Is this true? I don’t know. It’s hard to prove something like this. I can’t get inside your head, but from what I’ve heard and from my own personal experience, the stress levels at Latin have far surpassed the sky and are now soaring through the universe at startling speeds. Don’t we all want kind of want to believe this “fact” is true? It’s no secret that Latin is a competitive environment. But, we’re not only competitive about grades, honors and AP classes, and test scores.  We’re competitive about our stress levels. In my math class a few weeks ago, we talked about how students compare all the things they have going on their lives – academically, socially, and personally. How often have you heard this conversation: “I have 4 tests, 3 quizzes, 2 essays, and a presentation. All due this week!” And then the other person responds, “Well, I have 5 test, 5 quizzes, 3 essays, 3 presentations, and my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. Oh, and I’ve only slept a combined total of 4 hours this week.” It’s like we continuously try and beat our peers on how much stress we have in our lives. I’m guilty. I have to admit that it gives me some strange sort of pleasure to have more on my plate than everyone else. It gives me, and maybe you, an adrenaline that causes me to think my plate is like Mary Poppins’ bag: endless. The point is, we’d love to think we have the same stress levels as mental patients in the 1950s. If it were true, it would give us justification; it would give us a feeling of satisfaction to know that yes, we are crazy. And yes, we’re dealing with our craziness just fine. Better than fine. As we run in this rat race against our fellow students, we lose the possibility of learning for the sake of learning in favor of adding to our resumes and transcripts. As I was signing up for my classes for next year, I had a really hard time choosing. It wasn’t because of indecision, but because there were so many classes that I really wanted to take. I think a lot of students at Latin faced a similar situation. The scariest thing for me about high school, and perhaps about life, is that the decisions we make, either in a split second or over long thoughtful days, do have implications on our future. When we approach things like schedule making, we think about what we’re interested in but we also think about college. How many APs do I need to stand out? Am I in enough honors? Will what I do be enough? How will what I sign up for impact tomorrow, the day after, and years later? Will I be stressed out enough to feel that I’m working hard enough? Am I doing more than my friends and if not, am I ok with that? I can’t answer any of these questions for you. But they’re ones we face almost every day. Is this what we want and if it is, will it ever make us happy? If we always think there is more we can do, will we ever be content with what we are already doing?  Probably not. We’ll never feel that all we’re doing is enough. There will always be people who are more stressed. There will always be people who have bigger plates or who are able to eat more food faster than you can. There will be people who can get straight A’s without ever cracking open the textbook. We live in a society that perpetuates this problem. We all want to do more and do better. People should always want to do better. People should always want to improve themselves and push their limits. That’s what life is about. But our problem is that we aren’t improving ourselves for ourselves anymore. We’re taking on more to be competitive with everyone around us, not with ourselves. There’s gonna be someone better than you at everything you think you’re best at. That’s the way of the life. But, we allow this idea to be our destruction and that’s the real danger. How could we possibly be this stressed out and not be at the gates of an insane aslyum? As much as I’d like to say that we should all just stop, it’s not realistic. My acceptance of the way things are now, this extremely unhealthy way high school kids are living, perhaps makes me crazy in and of itself. We find ourselves trying so desperately to hold onto control that we lose it. I hope you’re all thinking about the dangerous patterns and precedents we’re setting for future generations. I hope that there will eventually be the restoration of childhood. Maybe one day we won’t be stuck with paralyzing stress, just the stress that pushes us forward in positive ways.]]>