High school can be a very difficult, stressful time. It can also be an opportunity where you find yourself and what you truly believe in. You may even inspire others along the way.
There’s no way around it, school can be a grind. Even if you don’t personally care about your grades and college applications, you may gradually start to feel the weight of other people’s expectations. Your school, teachers, parents, friends, family, and pop culture can all add to this. It might all feel heavier than a freshman backpack.
One brave and insightful teenager from my high school—and this was 5 years ago—wrote an article questioning all of this. For us, our school had a dominant workaholic, constantly busy high school culture. We were also strictly grouped by class level: SP, CP, AE, and H/AP. Don’t know what these mean? Well, I still don’t even know. They were just labels.
My classmate asked all of us, “Why? Why should we feel pressured into taking all higher level classes? Maybe I don’t want to spend almost all of my time after school on homework. Maybe I have to support my family by working a job. Maybe I would rather spend time with my loved-ones and friends over grinding away to get into a ‘good’ college. But what really bothers me is the common reaction I get from people about my classes. When I tell them I’m in CP math, people seem to think it’s because I’m not smart enough to be in AE or Honors. Honestly, why should we all feel pressured to overwhelm ourselves with work and extracurriculars?”
What you see above was not taken from the article they wrote; I didn’t actually even read it. Many of my classmates and I heard about it through our friends. We found it compelling and powerful because it was something many of us were thinking about, but we never said anything. They did.
Maybe your current school or community has a different issue that’s been unacknowledged. Few people have the courage to candidly address the most important matters everyone’s thinking about. You don’t have to be smart, athletic, attractive, privileged, or in any way exceptional to do this.
If you do, though, then you have my genuine admiration. And who knows, people you never even met may still think about your meaningful contribution 5, 10, or 20 years from now.
Just speak up.
Contributed by Nick Fochtman