I’m a senior this year, and my high school hasn’t, thankfully, witnessed suicides like those in Palo Alto. Unlike Gunn High, the spotlighted school in the article, a large fraction of the population walking through our halls is low-income. Yet the Atlantic story hit home with a few sentences that echoed what I’d heard multiple times during my four years: “the kids are losing sleep to cope with excessive homework.” I would also hear that students could never answer the question "what do you do for fun?" Adolescents shouldn't point to school as the greatest source of their stress because they feel that there is only one path to a successful life.
In conversations with friends, depression and suicide came up multiple times. My classmates were weary of school, the daily grind, doubtful about what the future could possibly hold. Yet moreover, like the Palo Alto students, many of them had lost their own drive and agency—they’re unsure what they want, what they really like, what their underlying reasons are for engaging in activities and taking classes. From freshman to senior year, I watch as my friends become more tired and listless.
I’m not above it all either. I’ve woken up at night remembering there’s yet another assignment I forgot about; on weekends without homework, I’m paranoid that I’ve forgotten something. There have been days I’ve woken up feeling dead tired, dreading school. I too am guilty of nearly falling asleep in class, rocking back and forth to keep awake. Bell to bell. Class to class. If you don’t have the right mindset, the unending pace can drive you crazy. If you don’t figure out what matters to you the atmosphere tides you over.
The New York Times published another article recently, asking “Is the Drive for Success Making our Children Sick?” If you asked me, I’d answer emphatically, yes.
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