He is a student at Lake Forest High School. Enrolled in eight classes a day, barely making time for lunch as he rushes to his next class. He only has the five-minute passing period to try to sneak in a snack that makes up for lunch before rushing to physics class. Anxious and prepared, he heads in ready for the pop-quiz that he knows is awaiting him. After school, he makes his way home, where he has another quick snack and immediately gets to work, preparing for the next physics pop-quiz that could make a return appearance soon. From 4:00-11:00 pm he reads, writes, calculates, annotates, correlates, and calculates. Trying to stay just one step ahead of the growing snowball of work that seems to be gaining speed as it rolls behind him. Working to stay focused, disregarding the buzzing, vibrating ember constantly calling out to him, diligently trying to distract him the work at hand, he finally falls victim to the temptation for connection. He opens his phone to see ‘snap’ stories from other students. As he watches the series of short, brief, ten-second glimpses into the windows of his fellow student’s lives, he sees scenes of students going from school to practice, then to work, dashing from games and training, from performance to paycheck, rushing, racing and flying through their high school years. No one pausing, no one appreciating the other aspects of life. Each student locked into a singular priority that seemingly prohibits them from enjoying any other experiences. Each of the students seem to be prioritizing only one aspect of the total high school experience. Each, of course, equally stressed and strained under a relentless weight of pressure. Each student juggling many priorities, but lacking what they most desire: balance.
As a high school student at LFHS, I know both types of students. At many points throughout my high school career, I have followed the path of each of them. But when I step back and look at my high school experience in full–gazing back at the scope the past four years has created–I realize the most successful strategy is to find balance between all aspects of life. Being a student at Lake Forest comes with many advantages. One of the biggest advantages, if not the biggest, is the range of opportunities that are open to each student. Whether it is pursued participating in our extraordinary athletic system or joining in any one of our incredibly diverse group of clubs and organizations, there is something for every student. However, with this vast amount of activities for students to join, many are often overwhelmed and can easily find themselves over committed and over stressed. Every free moment of every day is stacked and filled, rushed and raced through, never a moment for pause and appreciation. Others look at those same opportunities and refuse to join in, fearing that any distraction from studies or academics will intrude on the precious time needed for school work. Walking the halls or observing in the commons, it is easy to spot these stressed out colleagues: heads bowed, backs bent, visibly struggling with the weight of their burdens. They are stark contrast to those that have found balance. The balanced students walk looking straight ahead, steps light, pausing and connecting, smiles sharing the lighter weight they carry. Not everyone finds this balance at the same time. Some find it sooner, others a little later. But those who find this elusive gift, are the ones who will look back and reflect on the fours years as some of the best of their lives, when life was a smorgasbord meant to be savored and sampled, a menu of choice bits from which to pick and choose.
For me, balance is an equation that requires a variety of things on each side with equal attention and effort directed at a variety of topics. Now, that does not mean that there needs to be a million things on each side of the equation, nor should there be only one on each side, but it should be take into account a variety of tasks to determine an equal allocation. Finding the right balance can mean trying to seek out the things that you can do outside of school that you truly enjoy doing and the things that will truly make you happy, because happiness, at the end of the day, is the ultimate key. For some, balance may not be in groups or clubs or activities, but merely how they spend their free time. It could be simply going for a run or working out in between long sessions of studying. Some may counter my argument by saying that the more time you spend working on homework, the more successful you will be at school; the better the grades you will get, the better off you’ll be, and so on, and so forth. While that may be true, high school is not just about grades and life is not just about school. While academic intelligence is a very important part of high school and they are critical to the next steps that you take, beyond your application to college, your grades in high school may never ever define you again. Instead, you will be defined by the diversity of other experiences you have had so it is important not to miss out on those. Matthew Croissant, a senior has gone out of his way to try to gain as much work experience as he travels through his high school career. Over the last year, Matthew has worked at two different jobs during the school year. While working these jobs, Matthew has found the right balance for him between his school work, his free time, and his job. “Many Saturday and Sunday mornings are swallowed up when I am working, that is why I always just make a small sacrifice and give up some of my freetime for school work.” Matthew thinks that this small sacrifice is completely worth it for the experience of the job.
Personally, I do not want to look back on my high school experience and have it completely be defined by the grades I received. I would like to look back on my high school years and think fondly on the overall experience I had and think of them as some of the best years of my life. This is not me saying that I do not value my grades. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. This is me encouraging all students to just think of what kind of student they are. As senior Alex Moss looks back on his high school career he recalls how he found the balance between football and school. Many students see football and talk about how it is too much time to spend away from school work, but not Alex. “Football took a lot of time out of my everyday schedule but they key for me was knowing when I needed to get my work done. I always found a way to get my work done along with enjoying all the benefits of football season.” Throughout high school, many students like Alex are challenged with the same obstacles. If you are the first student who shies away from doing anything other than school work, I beg you to consider this: one day after school, think about what would you be doing right now if you were not in school. Not what you think you need to do, but what you want to do. After you have an idea, go do it. It does not hurt to try it once. If you feel like you are wasting too much time and you must get back to school work, then go back to your normal routine. If you are a student who constantly is active and barley leaves anytime for school then take a step back, look at everything you are involved in and ask yourself, “Does this truly make me happy?” If something does not, then stop wasting your time. Find your balance.