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Making the Journey Count

In a fast-paced and competitive world, productivity is seen as the ultimate key to accomplishment. Having this “drive to strive” for achievement has pushed people to do the most possible so that the best outcome arises. Whether it is about trying to impress our parents or attending the most prestigious college, we often put forth our best effort when there is a grand prize waiting for us at the end.

However, isn’t the journey to success equally as important as the grand prize waiting at the finish line? Although maintaining a busy schedule is essential in the modern era, it can simultaneously be detrimental to one’s mental health and overall well-being. In April 2019, Abigail Robles, Lakshmi Ramesh, and I sent out a survey for our AP Psychology course to 81 Presentation High School students in order to analyze the impact of sleep deprivation on students’ lives. One finding was that 50.6% of people prioritize school over three other given categories: family and friends, extracurriculars, and sleep. As shocking as I found that percentage at first, I realized that I would have answered in the same way one year ago.

At the start of my sophomore year, I almost fell apart because of how hectic my life had become. In an attempt to maintain the best grades possible, I spent long nights locked in my room, completing homework assignments and studying until my eyes were struggling to stay open. I committed over 25 hours per week to my robotics team and remained as an active member in other extracurriculars. I was able to complete all of these tasks successfully by the end of the school year, but at what cost?

I was getting about four to five hours of sleep every night. I paid little attention to my hygiene. I hardly ever spent time with my family and friends outside of class and car rides home. I got into fights that lasted for months with two of my closest friends and grew bitter as a result. I was at the lowest point I had ever experienced in my life. Everything that I cared about was falling apart. It was as if the light switch in my brain flicked off and my thoughts were left in the dark, clouded by pessimism.

As summer slowly passed and junior year approached, I knew that I had to change how I approached every aspect of my life. I refused to enter the “hardest year of high school” by repeating the stress and sacrifice that I had already gone through just a few months before. 

I began to sleep seven or more hours every night. I took better care of my body through regular self-care and better eating. I began to spend more time with my friends and talked more regularly with my family. I utilized calendars and planners in order to keep all of my assignments and extracurriculars in check. I made sure to give myself personal time for relaxation. I cared less about what colleges and others expected from me and more about what I expected from myself.

It was at that point when I was finally comfortable and happy. I was satisfied with both my journey and the person that I had become. Being able to know my limits and prioritizing the once-neglected aspects of my life has helped me develop into a mentally well woman.

No matter how much the world pushes you to remain in a constant cycle of work, I urge you to think about your own needs so that your adventure is just as satisfying as the result.