“But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” These are the words of a song, released in 1972 by Rick Nelson, called “Garden Party.” The first time I heard it on the radio the words reached out and grabbed my attention.
At the time I thought that those lyrics gave helpful advice; I just never followed it. In middle school, my life gradually became about competition: competition for the best grades, competition in sports, competition in activities and for leadership positions. And as competition slowly became my focus, I didn’t even stop to examine why I was doing all these activities. I simply got more and more competitive until I found myself drowning under pressure.
I discovered that I couldn’t divide my time and dedication among many different activities and still expect to be the best at all of them. Because I chose to dedicate most of my time after school to sports and Key Club, a high school service organization, my grades started to drop. When I tried to focus on school, I was accused of not being dedicated enough to Key Club. Also, since I participate in other sports in the winter and fall, I’ve never been able to play winter volleyball, so I had fallen behind those players who chose to play volleyball only.
When I finally slowed down to assess my predicament, I realized something extremely important. I was playing a sport I enjoyed, and I was doing an abundance of activities, but I was putting myself under so much stress and pressure that I was not having fun.
I realized that the only reason grades were so important to me was because I felt like I had to follow in my siblings’ footsteps, to be the star student and valedictorian of my class. Though my family was not putting this pressure on me, I was afraid that if I wasn’t these things, I would be a disappointment. I was putting so much time into Key Club because I felt like it would improve my scholarship opportunities. And it would, but what benefit would a scholarship, a great college, and an enviable job be if I rushed through life without ever stopping to enjoy it?
“But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.” This I believe: I can’t worry about pleasing my parents, or my siblings, or my teachers, or my friends all the time. Their happiness does not depend on me pleasing them, but my happiness does depend on me pleasing me. And that’s what is truly important in life. If you’re not living for yourself, who are you living for?
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