There’s an older meme that most internet users under the age of 17 have seen 一 it’s a triangle, with friends, sleep and good grades each in a different corner, and in the center, it says “choose two.” When I was an eighth grader, I thought the graphic was exaggerated, and I vowed to myself that I would maintain a balance of all three. Now, one month from graduating, I’m forced to admit that trying to achieve it all is impossible.
I will confess that I often find a lot of value in hard work. I usually feel best about myself when I am productive, whether that be finishing my homework assignments or crafting birthday presents for friends. However, senioritis has hit hard and seeing the impact a workaholic lifestyle has had on my friends has made me reconsider, especially when it comes to sleep and overall health. While ambition and hard work are great motivators and should be prioritized, productivity should not be so glamorized as to be considered the end-all-be-all of one’s value.
Of course, maximizing your time and scheduling things efficiently are great skills that benefit everyone. At the same time, it’s problematic for kids our age to feel like time is wasted if it doesn’t go towards education or work experience. It’s not okay when tasks needed to function on the most basic level, such as eating properly or getting enough sleep, are sacrificed in favor for other things, to the point where downtime just becomes off-the-clock labor.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 15% of students get eight and a half hours of sleep each night. I, along with nearly everyone I know, am one of those in the 85%. While I have definitely given up sleep to binge-watch shows or scroll social media, my lack of sleep originally stemmed from my workload. And while I have friends who somehow get a perfect balance of work-time and a full night’s sleep, the price is often losing time with friends or time to unwind.
At this point in my high school career, I’ve taken a step towards embracing sleep and emotional health over my grades. While I am much happier and healthier than years past, I am one of the few people I know who is largely blasé about them. I still deeply love and prioritize learning, I’ve just learned to care less about the letters that may come with it. By separating achievement from a genuine drive to learn, I’ve found school way more enjoyable.
I do believe that having a schedule stuffed with activities and a difficult class schedule has made me a better student and person. Beyond just study skills, AP credit or time management, I’ve deeply engaged with my teachers and become better at critically thinking. However, the problem with a workaholic culture is that it’s all too easy for someone’s self worth to come from the grades they get, the hours they work or the extracurriculars they’re involved in, when in reality, people are so much more than any of those things.
According to journalist Tony Schwartz, Americans “perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” It’s worth taking a moment to slow down and rest, or to spend time with friends and take a breather. Yes, being on the grind, maintaining great grades and being involved is super admirable, but you are more important than the things you do.