No Time for Free Time

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” —Socrates

I remember the good ol’ days of elementary and middle school where I could just come straight home after school, make myself a snack, finish all my homework in an hour or two, and just spend the rest of the night doing whatever I wanted to do. Now, though, years later, that type of thing is rarely an option anymore. With everything I have going on, the mere notion of having any excess time is near-laughable. Last year, as a junior in high school, most of my senior friends told me that the worst was behind me—my last year of high school would be much easier than the year I had just finished. Perhaps it’s just because I attend a small, academically-attentive private school and I chose to take difficult classes, but to those people who gave me the impression that senior year would be a breeze… You were wrong. Very wrong.

My junior year schedule was full, including five different Honors/AP/PSEO classes—two of which were fairly hard for me to keep up in. Three of the five were in subjects I am good at, so most of that came easily to me; but the other two—namely Honors Pre-Calc and AP U.S. History—were both subjects I found extremely boring and/or difficult to keep up with. This year, in the interest of avoiding academic suicide, I narrowed my class choices down to three AP/PSEO classes—the rest are electives or courses required for graduation from my school. The three college-level classes I took for my senior year are all in subjects that I’m good at, or at least find interesting (which makes it a heck of a lot easier for me to focus and learn). So conceptually, senior year has definitely been easier than junior year—there’s not nearly as much that I don’t understand as there was last year. But workload-wise, senior year is undoubtedly much worse. There is hardly a night where I don’t have at least a three or four hours of homework to do. Sometimes I do it all and sometimes I save it for the next morning, but that’s a separate topic.

On top of school, I also work a part-time job at the local Pizza Ranch as a pizza maker, delivery driver, and occasionally as a busser. I typically work 15-20 hours a week (3-4 days), though that time is reduced during certain spans depending on my availability. I have church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, too, and I am starting near-daily drama rehearsals this Saturday (I’m just a stage manager—acting isn’t my thing). Along with school and homework and my job and other extra-curricular activities, I still like to find some time to spend with friends and family. I’ve found that balancing all of this while still attempting to get a decent amount of sleep every night is extremely difficult, and unfortunately, I often have to forfeit a grade in the interest of getting enough sleep (or vice versa—forfeiting a good night’s sleep for a good grade).

Among the many things I’ve learned over the past four years of high school, the importance of balancing time is easily one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way. (And, I imagine, I will continue to learn and re-learn this concept well into college and later adulthood.) I love being involved in my school and church and social outings, but I still have to balance schoolwork and my job and family time. As much as I wish I had time for all the things I want to do (like leisure reading and watching Netflix and taking art classes and writing more and getting back into a normal sleep schedule, etc.), I’ve found that I just can’t keep running on a full schedule without repercussions. I’ve had to cut activities out of my life that were taking up too much time, some of which were harder to quit than others, and some poorly-managed time has come back to bite me.

But my advice to anyone reading this: Do what you enjoy, but make sure you have time for the things you need to do (even if you don’t enjoy them). Balance those two, especially in school. Don’t be so overloaded with things (hard courses, extracurricular activities, etc.) that you can never relax and de-stress, but don’t sit around and do nothing all day, either. In school, take enough difficult courses to challenge yourself, but don’t do what I did junior year (take every single upper-level class you possibly can). Trust me on this one—that only leads to a year of unending stress, very few hours of sleep, and a decline in mental, physical, and emotional health; an overall monotonous existence. Even if you think you can caffeinate yourself enough to get by, you’re going to burn out eventually. You’re only human, after all, and exhaustion is inevitable.

My main point? Just remember to allow yourself a little free time.

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