The Power of Calm

Michelle - Hoffman Estates, Illinois
Entered on May 29, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Just when I start to cross one more history project off of my to-do list, I begin to consider the multitude of concerns that I have piled up in my bank—things such as college applications, teacher recommendations, prom, and getting a job this summer—whose weight I carry around on my back from day to day. Every enjoyable minute has been tainted by a looming obligation, every free second spent in pursuit of preparation for the next job on my list. The bright and glamorous future that is supposedly in store comes to me at such high a cost—at the cost of today.

Parents usually laugh at their teenagers when they hear them complain about the workload. Their generation actually enjoyed high school and college. In ours, competition for grades and acceptance begins even at a grade school level. Today, parents convince their children that A stands for “acceptable”, and B is “below acceptable.” Our generation is force fed such high standards from our parents that we build ourselves up only to collapse. Most students will grow up to disappoint themselves because they cannot carry on such level of achievement. In the past the expression was, “you win some, you lose some,” but now we live in a society where the motto goes, “you had better win them all.”

In carrying this level of expectation to all areas of my life, I am asking the nearly impossible of myself. How can I do all the chores up to par while writing my application essay for Harvard while feeding the homeless while studying for my AP physics final? And this is never enough. If my parents had their way, I would also do sports, hold a job, and take full care of my siblings. No matter how hard I try, I will never be the super-woman that everyone expects. And most likely, nor will you.

The message that I want to send out there is not only to students like me, but to everyone: you can relax. In an age where the now is sacrificed for the later we forget why we are even alive. We wrap our brains so tightly around the concept of tomorrow and the tomorrow after that and the months ahead that we lose sight of the goals behind all that: love, health, and happiness. Psychological studies have shown that young adults who busy themselves with worrying and accomplishing just for the sake of achieving will most naturally continue with this behavior into late adulthood, even once all their goals have been successfully met. This means that those parents are raising a generation of people who will be unhappy throughout their entire lives.

I believe that there comes a time to rest. A time to reflect on the gift of today and the feeling of being alive. So tomorrow find five minutes to spend to yourself, and you too will believe in the power of being calm. Begin tomorrow with rekindled energy. Live.