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5:40 AM. Alarm bells pierce through what was once a blissful silence. Muscles screaming from exhaustion, I haul my weary body out of bed and begin yet another day of endless activity. Slow hands fumble to put on socks, then shoes. I find my way down the stairs. Coffee in thermos, breakfast bar in hand. I walk out of the garage door, slide into the driver's seat. The drive is quick and dull, with only the early morning radio show hosts to keep me company.
6 AM. Park the car, get out, lock the doors. Sixteen sets of sleepless eyes greet me. The first words I say to anyone today exit my mouth, "Let's warm up." The slow patter of footsteps gains momentum as our tired bodies kick into gear. Soon enough, we are not jogging but flying past the small landmarks I use to mark mileage on this golf course I know like the back of my hand.
7 AM. We return to the cars at a slow trot. Quietly, I mentally prepare for the long day ahead as we all contort our bodies to stretch our overworked muscles. Four bodies now beginning to hum with energy pile into my car, and I shift into first gear. Time to take on the day. Time to face the world. We make it to campus in minutes and are welcomed by a desolate parking lot, devoid of cars.
7:20 AM. We hit the locker room. A cold rush of water rouses my trailing mind. A teammate belts out the lyrics of "Livin' on a Prayer." This is more like it. It's wake up time. We rally our spirits, pull on our uniforms, and drag ourselves to class.
8 AM. I collapse into my seat, ready for a mental assault in the form of physics. Chimes signal the start of class, and Ms. Colwell launches into discussion of the Laws of Thermodynamics. The clock ticks along slowly. Eight sets of eyelids grow heavy. I fight the urge to lay my head down for a fleeting moment of rest. One classmate stands and walks around the room in hopes of sparking some energy within herself. I used to love learning new things. When did it become just another thing to check off of my "To Do" list?
12 PM. Student government lunch meeting convenes. I ask, "What are some ideas for our spirit week fundraiser?" Ideas flying around the room. Pressure is on. You're their leader, so get these ideas organized. And contribute some ideas of your own. I just want to eat with my friends.
2:50 PM. Four disinterested freshman boys sit before me. A dull ache has manifested itself at the front of my head. My Spanish proficiency and their under-performance bring us together on this fateful afternoon. One of the young men whispers to another, "What's the point of this anyway?" The ache intensifies. Is it hypocritical of me to pass judgement on these boys for their lack of gusto for the Spanish language? My gusto for most things seems to be faltering lately.
8 PM. Three long lost friends gather around their favorite meal of the week after three long days of work. Churrasco hot off the grill, cooked with my mom's world famous chimichurri sauce. Laughter bubbles forth as my parents regale me with stories of weird things that happened to them throughout the day. We share a precious forty minutes before I return to my desk to continue my calculus homework.
1 AM. The buzz of an overused lamp touches my ears. The light glares at my burnt-out eyeballs, angry at me for keeping it awake. It is time to get some semblance of sleep. Reaching to flip the switch that will engulf my room in darkness, I brush the lamp's bulb and burn my fingertips. Nice touch. Definitely needed that addition to my day. Thank you, lamp. Lights out, time for bed.
Sapped of my enthusiasm and energy, I merely go through the motions of what used to ignite a fire in me. Wake up, practice, get to school. Physics, Literature, Biology, Philosophy. Herds of young people slump from room to room during passing periods. The student body forms a collective groan simply over a shared fatigue. Pay attention. Be happy. Take notes. Have fun. Lunch: a brief respite, yet still filled with meetings for the clubs I felt obligated to join. Theology, P.E., Calculus, Study Hall. Do I use my study hall to study? No, I tutor for a stripe on my resume. Gotta get into a good college, right? Back to practice, home by 7. Forget about free time. No energy for enthusiasm, no time to spend with family. Homework until 1 AM, go to sleep, do it all again.
I am tired. Both tired from a lack of sleep and tired of these unrealistic expectations set upon me, this constant pull of the various things that I should be focusing my attention on, I should be prioritizing. Tell me, how can I prioritize everything? I hear a consistent hum of all the things I should be doing in order to be the ideal high school student. Don't you want to go to college? Then earn good grades. Get involved. Play a sport. Find a way to take on a leadership position. Always be kind. Engage in a creative pursuit. Serve your community (not really out of the goodness of your heart but to be able to say that you did).
But don't you also want to enjoy your time in high school? Then make friends. Don't miss out on football games or school dances. These are the so-called pinnacles of our high school social lives. Spend time with your family. Oh, and teenagers' minds are still developing, so make sure to get about nine hours of sleep a night!
Sure, I'll just do it all because apparently that is possible. No skimping.