If you didn’t know by know, I’m a student. I’m currently ending the junior part of secondary school, and will be going into the senior part this September. And for a while, I’ve trying to figure out how to write something more targeted to females my own age, i.e. those still in school and not yet college (or life).
I was racking my brains for a while, trying to find something – minimalism in school? managing time? And then it hit me: I’ve struggled in school, I’ve had confusion about what to do with my life, I’ve had the late nights, the last-minute assignments, the breakdowns and tears. I know. And so here’s a real, honest talk about and for students in school.
I guess let’s start with the basics: grades.
Here’s a fun fact – I’m terrible at maths. I cannot get my head around solving problems, being logical, and generally having all the skills you need to be good at maths. My mind is more centered around words and music. Numbers baffle me. Having said that, though, I love being able to solve a problem (also when my algebraic equations work out, I’m basically high).
Coming from a half-Russian family, there is pressure to do well in the science and mathematical areas. Be a doctor, a mathematician, etc., etc. It’s caused me so much anger, frustration, and just overall negativity when I come home with less than an A (which is less than 86%). More often than not, I’ll fall into the C (or lower!) categories. Not only does this make me feel as though I’ve disappointed my parent, but also I question how smart I am. That’s the worst part – wondering exactly how stupid I could have been to get a C on the test that everyone else seems to have gotten an A.
Yet recently, I’ve started to get a little more okay with that. Not completely – never completely. But I’m starting to accept the fact that perhaps my brain is not wired to understand numbers, but rather letters and music notes.
I know how frustrating it can be in a position like this. But if you too are struggling with a subject (or more than one), please try to recognize your strengths. Yes, you may not be great at Spanish, but look at your artistic skills! OR what about your knowledge of code? Forget geography!
We as humans put too much pressure on ourselves to be good at everything; now I’m here to tell you: sis, it ain’t possible. We drag ourselves down, obsessing over every error. We need to lay off ourselves, take a step back and see the bigger picture. In my case, I know I’m not going to pursue a career in mathematics.
And it does sadden me. Because of my shoddy maths, I won’t be taking Physics in September (I’m fascinated by outer space, but to study astrophysics in college I need school physics). But I’m cheered by the thought that instead of being shoddy at something and following it out, I can pursue a career doing something I know I am good at. I know that this way I can better serve the world. You need to see this too. Stop beating yourself up over your history grades: instead, focus on what you’re good at.
I’m not saying that we should just all fail whatever we think we’re bad at. Far from it. Instead, keep trying. And damn it, I know it’s disheartening when you spent an hour learning the rules of indices, and yet you didn’t even get a B. You know what? Keep going. Maybe you’re not going to ever be the best at a certain subject/topic. But if you’re working your ass off, nobody can ever say you didn’t try.
[and you? what’s your worst subject? are trying to improve? have you given up? do you like it? do you care or not?]
Let’s stop for a moment though, and consider pressure.
We all have it, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you have an amazing older sibling who’s got a degree in aeronautical engineering. Or maybe you’re the eldest, and so you’re getting a huge burden to lead your siblings. Or maybe you’re an only child, and so there’s pressure to be the best above other people. Whatever it is, it’s hard.
I can’t say that I don’t like having a little pressure. Because yes, it does motivate me to keep studying, keep trying for the A, and set standards for my siblings below me (yes, I’m the eldest). But sometimes the pressure makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers, because it’s hard. I keep being told about brilliant children of my parents who are doing medicine, physics, engineering, or performing music, and sometimes it’s hard not to scream “I don’t care!”
[what about you? what’s the biggest pressure being placed on you in relation to school?]
Pressure is such a mixed concept – the right amount, and you can reach the moon. But too much, and everything starts crumbling. I really want to say: to every student, please don’t stress. Yes, a little stress is good, but if you’re getting too pressurized, please unburden yourself. Talk to parents, friends or teachers – explain that expectations are getting out of hand, you have too much to do, you’re drowning in work… but don’t let it continue. That’s when problems will start to arise.
Having said that, though, I think school-goers of today have a bit of a problem when it comes to being motivated to do well. It’s either you’re on one of two extremes – diligent, focused, and trying for Yale, or else you’re open about the fact that you’re a lazy hooligan.
Too often, though, people are ready to admit they do nothing and hate school. I think this trend of anti-school teenagers has definitely risen with the popularity of people such as Emma Chamberlain, who dropped out of school because she hated it. I’m seeing a growing number of teenagers, especially girls, do this.
But we’re forgetting something: yes, while it is possible to create a life you love out of something that doesn’t require a degree, what about all of those children (and teenagers) who physically can’t go to school? Whether it’s they’re starting a family, working, or can’t afford school – we’re in a position of privilege here. You should at least try to use that to your own advantage, and develop your mind as much as possible.
I for one will be heading to college after school. Because yes, I am in this position of privilege too – there are schools available to me, I don’t have to marry, and so forth. I want to use my power to help others (cough, medicine, perhaps, cough).
[what are your thoughts on this? do you think college is an outdated concept? or do you think people are just being too lazy to work and develop their minds?]
Please don’t hurt yourself with overwork. Not getting into Yale will not be the end of the world. And if to your parents it is, please sit down with them and talk. You deserve to be able to pursue hobbies and interests outside of school. It’s okay to go out sometimes, or to read something other than a textbook. It’s okay to develop a project like a blog, YouTube channel, etc. Find something you love, and keep at it.
Most of all, find balance. You don’t have to go to Yale, but please try to push yourself to become something. At the same time, if you get into Yale, great!
Don’t drop out of school because it’s “hard.” If it’s just that you don’t like learning – start liking it! I’m not saying you should become a straight-A student, but at least see this from a point of view where you can understand people, places, and how the world works. There is no greater power than that.
Now we’re coming to the pinnacle of school: being social. How do you balance a social life with keeping on top of work?
Okay, let’s be real for a minute. I’m not exactly Miss Popular in school. I have very few close friends, and then I just rub along with everyone else. So I don’t exactly have trouble juggling schoolwork and a social life. I also lean more towards what people would call a hermit – I prefer staying at home than going out.
But like many people, I enjoy spending time with others. So how do I balance that?
My key is to prioritize. For example, I’m currently at mock-exams season, which means study. And so I will not be going out with friends until exams are over.
Prioritize things depending on the situation. For example, at exam season, it’s better to take a day off but spend it with yourself, organizing and resting, than getting drunk and staying up until early morning with friends. During holidays, you have a lot more free rein. Assess your current situation before prioritizing others. Do you honestly think a day out will benefit you more than a day of rest for yourself? In some cases yes, in others no. Learn to recognize your current state of wellbeing and what would be best to improve it.
[do you agree with this? or you just generally someone who prefers going out over staying, or vice versa?]
If you’ve read down this far, you deserve a medal. This was sitting in my mind for a while, and I really wanted to make an honest chit-chat type post for students.
If you’re a student… well, comment below! I’ve scattered a few questions throughout this post – I’d love to read your answers and see what your views, burdens, thoughts and current situations are. Thanks!