“I can’t. I don’t have enough time.” This was my standard response to every social invitation as a stressed-out freshman in high school. I had a test in two days. I needed to study. My happiness and overall well-being had to be sacrificed in light of this fact.
As the year progressed, however, I found that once the tests started, they never stopped coming. Despite all of this, my response remained the same,“I can’t hang out this weekend, but maybe sometime soon.”
I found that my purpose in life became to get straight A’s. My social life got thrown on the back burner, and so too did my happiness.
I became the kid no one wanted to be friends with. I became the cut-throat, competitive, anxious, teacher’s pet kind of kid who lost all shreds of relatability.
And I found that I no longer even liked myself. I had lost my bubbly personality and my dry sense of humor. I didn’t attract friends the way I used to because I had all but stopped trying. I was, in every sense of the word, a try-hard and nothing more.
I told myself the only way to do well on an exam was to overcompensate in studying for it. I would study for 10 hours for any one test, and when that test didn’t go the way I planned, I lost complete confidence in my abilities. The only solution, I decided, was to study more for the next exam.
I failed to see that my academic life and my social life weren’t completely separate entities, but two sides of the same coin — they genuinely bolstered each other. I failed to see that maybe I would study better if I had plans to look forward to on the weekend. I failed to see that a supportive friend group could aid my test anxiety, allowing me to perform better on examinations.
The COVID-19 catastrophe offered me a moment to reassess my path and my priorities. COVID-19 decelerated things, and put life into perspective. Ironically, the pandemic offered me a reprieve from an endless cycle of work. It seemed to remind me of my limited time in this world and emphasized the important things in life: friends, family and a walk in the neighborhood.
For the first time in my life, I put school on the back burner. I completed my assignments rapidly so I could watch a movie with my siblings or catch the sunset at the beach. I changed the narrative from, “I can’t” to “I can” and the world hardly resisted.
To my surprise, I found that the more “me time” I integrated into my days, the better I did in school. The less I prepared for examinations, the more confidence I instilled in myself. I told myself I knew the test material, as I had grasped the concepts in class and completed the assignments in earnest.
I realized that being the “try-hard” is nothing to be proud of. School is a part of life but it is not, by any means, the end all be all. Even with straight A’s and pats on the back from all my teachers, I wasn’t happy. I thought if I worked harder and pushed further, I could attain happiness.
In truth, I needed to move slower and laugh deeper to attain real success.
Lena Thakor is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]