I, the sprinter

Knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you’d share with younger students ? (scholarship response)

I think that my best friend from high school would agree that he could recall and describe the position I was in four years ago better than I could. Amid the organized chaos that was my high school life—or chaos so I thought it was back then—it was he who sat by me in almost every class, suffered through the endless complaints I ranted to him every off chance that I had, and reassured me to not worry every second of every day. Perhaps, not so much by my own volition did I consequently forget most of these high school days that repeated in this seemingly endless cycle, because it is probably more accurate to say that I never even gave myself the chance to remember much of what was going on. High school was sort of a brief period in time when it felt like I was sprinting during a marathon. With such tunnel vision, I only seemed fixated on a single point ahead of me and nothing else in the periphery. So to all of you finding yourselves in a similar situation just described, I urge you—learn to jog instead, because it is definitely better worth your time.

Firstly, it is important to clarify that both sprinting and jogging causes stress. Everyone can most probably agree that school causes stress. However, what is different with jogging is that the stress stays at a level that is still motivational. If you find that your stress causes you to panic in the middle of the night and make you start to hate the fact that you have school the next day, you are definitely sprinting. As you have already heard, life is so much more than those four years. However, for now, I am positive that you cannot appreciate that in its entirety, because when you have a chunk of your day bitten out between 8 am and 4 pm, you really haven’t experienced anything else in “the real world.” So it’s only natural that your grades, getting into a prestigious college, and devoting the rest of your day to staying focused on those two things might become the biggest things that cause stress. But now I must question, at what point do these stressors stop being motivational and start to become tasks that almost seem like an obligation or duty for you to complete?

A lot of what I can recall from high school is everyone telling me what to get myself involved in, what classes I could or couldn’t take, and probably the most memorable of all, what colleges are looking for. It probably wasn’t a regular school day until I heard those last words uttered from at least one person I knew. As if with the skills of a master clockmaker I was assembled to function with essentially one purpose, and despite how incredibly intricate and fine-tuned all my parts were, my duty was to supply the desirable answer to “what the colleges are looking for.” This was my tunnel vision, and is most likely what many of your own is as well. I realise only recently that I was never going to understand that from the perspective I placed myself at the time, unable to occupy myself with many other matters—matters, which some of to my surprise, are actually more relevant to “the real world.”

I must admit that I never really learned to slow down because what more accurately happened was that I ran out of steam by the time I reached college and collapsed from fatigue; and so, I was essentially left with nothing but to look at everything else that was now around me. It was terrifying and the immense freedom that college granted me so suddenly not only took me by surprise, but left me feeling incredibly lost, because I no longer had a definitive purpose. For four years, my purpose had been clear. What purpose does a clock have but to tell the time?

The reality is : nothing else. I undid all the delicate work, removing the parts violently, and then I was forced to ask myself new questions with the hope that I could reassemble the parts to seek new purposes. Not a single moment in high school do I remember any one asking me, at least in a serious manner, what passions am I in search of, what life do I envision myself working towards, and not even the basic, have I found things that make me happy and excited to live? I find that these questions, which are ones that I should have started asking myself earlier, are the things that stress me the most now—not studying for that organic chemistry midterm or updating my résumé—things that sprinting would have otherwise made me only focused on like before. Thus, I urge you to slow down, to start seriously asking these questions to yourself, and lastly to reroute some of your motivation. As for myself, now that I’m jogging, I am infinitely relieved that the sprinting has stopped and have transitioned to looking in the periphery in search of my own new answers.


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