A Race Against Time

(This hasn’t been read over because it’s past midnight and I really need to go to bed, so please forgive any mistakes.)

I often say to my mom, in the late hours of the night when I wish there was just one more hour added to the day so the mountain of work I still have to do doesn’t seem so daunting, that I wish I had something which would let me pause time. Just for a few hour so I could finish homework and read a couple chapters of a book and maybe catch a cat nap. The problem is, of course, that those few hours would eventually add up and I would find myself biologically older than I should be. And that machine doesn’t exist.

There’s this constant battle I find myself fighting every day: get started on my homework the moment I get home after a 7 hour day filled with work and lessons and people, or sit quietly in my room and read a book or watch a 45 minutes episode of some show on Netflix; stay up an extra hour and blog, or sleep during that hour so I don’t end up dead on my feet by the end of the week and can actually pay attention in class; play with my dog, or get some extra unassigned studying in via sources on the Internet. My priorities can influx daily, but I always have to get all of my homework done before class the next day, which can leave me staying up later than is healthy for a person my age and cramming in the last few math problems or pages in a history textbook in between classes.

And the other time I have to do things and relax during the school day gets eaten up by meetings and assignments. I haven’t had lunch in the cafeteria once this week (and won’t tomorrow because it’s a half day). And part of this is my fault: I once said to Mr. Adams that my problem isn’t that I can’t say “no” to other people, it’s that I can’t say “no” to myself. I want to do a lot, be involved in a lot. I have a lot of interests and my school offers a lot of things to cater to those interests, but sometimes that means sacrificing other things.

I read this article yesterday (it’s very good and I highly recommend it), and it was just this big, long, drawn-out moment of “Someone finally gets it!” The author talks about how her three kids (two girls in middle school and one boy in 3rd grade) spend each afternoon being shuttled from one event to another and each night tucked away in their respective rooms. They have dinner in the car and the girls are sometimes up later than their parents doing homework.

When people would ask me how I was doing last year, my response was usually, “Busy. I’m very busy,” coupled with a humor-less laugh. There were weeks where I would be lucky if I made it to the lunchroom even once, and sometimes that “once” was out of a month. My friends had jokes about how elusive Anya and I had become, and there were other jokes I missed out on because I was always running everywhere. Over the summer, I promised myself that it would be different this year and that I would go to at least two lunches each week: one with my junior friends and one with my senior friends (lunches are split up so juniors and seniors have the same lunch time). I’ve been doing a pretty good job sticking to that, and can usually make it to 3-4 lunches during my lunch time each week (one A Cappella Club practice happens during my usual lunch time, so I eat with my sophomore firsts during 1st lunch on that day), but there are still sometimes anomalies (i.e. this week).

During the conversation Anya and I had with Grant Lichtman yesterday, we talked about how we want to write a book and he brought up that – while it’s do-able – it will be hard considering we’re busy students. And really, there are so many things I want to do that I simply feel I can’t do because I don’t have the time.

Anya and I were talking about this today in AP Lang as we worked out and actually wrote down some ideas we have for things we could write about in the book. The author of the above article talks about how her family went on vacation over Memorial Day Weekend and the 12 year daughter spent the entire time inside studying for her upcoming exams. I have a similar story about last year’s Thanksgiving Break. My family, grandparents, and I all went to New Orleans because my dad wanted to do something different. I had been given work by some of my teachers to do over the break (much to many students’ annoyance, because some don’t have wifi at where ever they were going, and our homework tends to be very wifi dependent), and I kept trying to get my dad to understand that I couldn’t keep getting up early and going to bed late and walking around all over the city because I had to get this work done. I had exams coming up, I had homework, and I finally put my foot down and said, “I have to stay at the hotel today, because I need to get these things done so I can continue to do well in class and on the exams. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” Luckily, after a day of finally getting to do my school work and not feeling like it was a dark cloud hanging over my head nagging me more with every step I took, I felt like I was finally able to relax a bit and actually have a vacation.

This Thanksgiving Break, when my dad suggested going to Kentucky to see his family, I said no because exams are three weeks away and again there are things I need to get done. This time, the to-do list extends beyond simply school work: there are chapters I need to write for a fictional story I’m working on, blog posts to do, books to finish/read, things to catch up on. I need to deep clean both my room and my computer, hang up the art that’s been leaning against my nightstand for over a month. I have emails from friends I need to respond to, and thoughts to think about. And somewhere in all of this, I need to make sure I spend time with my family.

Do I feel bad that my to-do list is through the roof and I won’t get to spend a lot of time with my family? Of course. The problem is that I don’t have time when school is going on to do the things I want to do. Breaks are my times to catch up on everything that’s fallen between the cracks as I focus on schoolwork and not drowning in responsibilities.

And I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why don’t you just quit some of the things you’re doing? Just say “no” to some of the things people ask you to do.” But here’s the thing: I do say no. I say no to the things I have no interest in, and I move on. But I’m deeply invested and highly interested in Writing Club, A Cappella Club, Art Club, Spiritual Life Prefect Committee, Unity Prefect Committee, Ambassadors Prefect Committee, Innovation Diploma, blogging, and making sure everyone else around me is doing okay. These things make me happy, and why would I stop doing things that make me happy?

2 thoughts on “A Race Against Time

  1. Pingback: #MustRead Shares (weekly) | it's about learning

  2. Thanks for taking time to write this post and share your thoughts + experience. As a mom of 3 tween/teens and a teacher new to boarding school life, I am wrestling with that same dilemma. With my own children, I see the importance of “down time” and try to carve that out for us all while also doing my best to help them maintain a sense of balance in their lives. The students I teach have most of their lives scheduled or overscheduled. The same goes for the faculty I am part of at my new school. As someone working to foster innovation in our school (and in “school” more generally), I see lack of time and over-burdened schedules as a huge problem. Innovation, creativity, and inquiry needs a certain amount of openness and freedom. How can we promote innovation in schools when we are all living the hectic life you so poignantly describe here?

    I hope you have a great holiday break and are able to carve out some downtime for yourself this week so you can continue to do all you do and truly enjoy.

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