Nowadays, movies constantly depict high school as this fun, stress-free and exciting time in our lives where we hang our friends and break out dancing at the end of class. However, in today’s competitive and changing society, high school has become a war-zone where not only are we in constant battle with each other to be the best but also with ourselves. While methods vary among students for how they choose to fight their battles, this article will explore one particular, and controversial lifestyle that student has adapted in order to secure success.
Ambitious, strange, and scared. Those are the three words that Belú Velazco would use to describe herself. Now a senior, Belú has been a student at Oceana for all four years, doing extremely well academically as well as extracurricularly. In addition to being a straight-A student, Belú is also heavily involved in other things such as Editor-in-Chief of the Oceana Yearbook and new member Maker’s Club. She also tutors at Mathnasium, a math tutoring services for kids. On the surface level, Belu seems like any other hard-working high school students.
With all the activities that she has taken on, one would think that it de-stress is necessary to maintain this kind of rigorous lifestyle: “Although mental health is very important, in my mind, it isn’t. For me, de-stress is to finish all my work and get it all done.” When asked where she draws the line, she disappointing said: “I don’t. There have been many, many times when I have had breakdowns. You would think I draw the line and choose to take a break … to rest. But in reality, I don’t. The line doesn’t’ exist — it is until I finish everything, every assignment, until I succeed in every task that I can rest.” In this lifestyle, the ends really justify the means: “I know it’s toxic. I’m very aware of that. Although I don’t sleep, although I’m constantly working for long periods of time without rest, although I break down sometimes too, for me, in the end, it is rewarding to know that I finished.”
Her response isn’t surprising—between the homework required for Advanced Placement classes, work, extracurricular activities like yearbook, this lifestyle doesn’t seem like a bad choice: “I prioritize academics above all else. There are many times when I don’t sleep a lot but it’s to finish something the best I can.” To be clear, this article is not meant to shame Belú nor the decision she has made to be successful in school; but rather, it is meant to shine a light on a toxic lifestyle that many students have taken on to be successful. This article is not asserting that stress is bad — in fact, it can be quite helpful to motivate to succeed. But to the degree in which students like Belú have decided to deal with stress can in fact, be quite toxic considering that the lifestyle creates an interesting concept: To do the best we can without defining what is best.
The best I can. This expression has become the primary justification for why students like Belú choose to ignore their physical and mental health. But here to we draw the line between doing our best and ensuring we aren’t killing ourselves in the process?
“I fear disappointing others — I fear not meeting the expectation.” In a nutshell, this quote encapsulates the motivation behind taking on a lifestyle that theoretically guarantees success in nearly everything.
Belú says this lifestyle is fueled by comparing oneself to another: “If I don’t finish an assignment, I look at other students and think to myself there some students who do a million things on campus and they can do it. Why can’t I?”
Beyond this, this lifestyle is fueled by factors Belú can’t necessarily control, such as the familial pressure that is placed on Belú, “I feel like if I we’re to disappoint her, I’m doing something wrong; for example, with Senior Ex, if she catches me n the rare occasion where I do happen to take a break, she’ll question me about it.”
“I feel like I have to push myself. I feel like I have to get those grades that are seen really good because that’s what colleges are going to see — what my parents are going to see. If I get B, they’ll say, ‘you’re not trying hard enough, you’re always distracted, you’re wasting your time with crying instead of being productive.”