As I laid down with my friend on the field of our elementary school reminiscing about happier times, both of us couldn’t help but feel a sense of anxiety.
Not because we weren’t having a great time feeling like kids again — because we were — but because we couldn’t stop thinking about how we could be doing something more “productive,” like SAT practice or getting ahead in homework.
The truth is, this sort of mentality is one of the reasons why so many adolescents go through episodes of depression and anxiety in high school — we essentially do not allow ourselves to be happy anymore. We feel guilty for having a great time.
My mother occasionally tells me stories about her life in high school. Despite going to one of Romania’s most prestigious IT schools, she says her high school years were the best of her youth — she hung out with friends, learned how to dance, and traveled the country, all while being able to work hard in school. Many other parents tell similar stories, and to most teenagers, their stories sound like unrealistic fantasies.
Now, it’s completely understandable as to why our generation tends to live in a perpetual state of anxiety. In fact, our generation’s anxiety levels are reported as being higher than those of mental hospital patients in the 1950s, a statistic that I have brought up in previous articles due to its importance. We live in a very competitive environment, to the point where many of us put education and grades even before our health.
I personally get around four to five hours of sleep a night, don’t bother eating in the morning, and am generally tired enough to forget which way is left and which way is right. While that is partially due to my procrastination, it’s also due to the ridiculous amount of work that comes from maintaining high A’s in seven classes.
Because I have so much work, I tend to procrastinate in an attempt to get free time, but because I’m procrastinating, I can’t even enjoy not doing my work. Essentially, it’s an endless cycle in which I end up hurting both my grades and my mental and physical health, and many students are caught up in the same loop.
What’s worse though, is when spending regular free time (not procrastination “free time”) starts to give us anxiety.
Hanging out with friends when we are not neglecting our responsibilities should not make us feel guilty. Playing video games for two hours when our room is clean and our grades are stable should not make us feel guilty. Having fun and doing what people our age should be doing, living and discovering life, should not make us feel guilty.
Ultimately, we can go on and blame the society we live in for putting so much pressure on college and being the very best we could be. Still, in the end it is our responsibility to realize that it is okay to have fun. While we could theoretically spend every minute of the day studying and becoming “star students,” it might not be the best thing to do.
While education and effort are undoubtedly important, being able to relax, spend time with friends, and enjoy life is also important, and it is our responsibility to rid ourselves of the self-inflicted guilt that comes along with that.