To the boy next to me at Starbucks

Ryann Redinger, Engagements Editor

As I sit at Starbucks, you are sitting on my right deeply studying your AP Government textbook with your AP Stats and Calculus books in a stack nearby. I have been here awhile, and you have not looked up once except to say hi.

As I sit and creepily watch you study (because I have nothing better to do), I can’t help but wonder what you do with your life besides study.
Do you have time to spend time with people, eat, or even sleep?

When studying and school is your entire life, do you ever have time for things such as sleepovers, family outings, or dating?

I wonder if you ever get to experience those things. Or do you opt out to go to Starbucks and study for hours upon end instead?

I get it; you want to get into a good school, so you can get good scholarships, so you can have a well-paying job.

I understand, but I can’t help but wonder how you give up so much to take all those advanced classes, do all the extracurriculars and still remain intact. When it’s 3 a.m. and you still have at least another hour of homework left, how do you wake up the next day and show up to school ready to learn and perform?

I wish I could be like you. I mean I have a 4.0 GPA and I feel like I am very involved in school, yet I don’t even compare to the high achiever that you are and that many other students are. I used to be.

Taking hard classes and being involved in every club that exists used to be a priority, but something my junior year changed. My classes got harder and my schedule got crazier, adding in show choir, school choir, and starting a new relationship. I found it so hard to finish my homework due to the constant need for perfection after a long show choir rehearsal or movie date.

I remember what it was like to pull all-nighters: half spent doing homework and half falling into a dark place of anxiety due to lack of sleep and wanting to please my teachers. I know I did that to myself by doing all the extracurriculars, but things happened to me my junior year that made me prioritize almost everything in my life over homework, which only deepened the hole of academic anxiety I was already in.

So I just don’t understand how you and many of my other friends do it. I can’t understand how you can be OK, or at least seem to be, after all the stress of trying to be the perfect student. I don’t wear perfect well, although I try very hard to pull it off.

I realize I don’t need to be a star student to be happy. My identity isn’t found in the straight A’s and honors classes. I no longer delight myself in correcting someone else’s grammar.
Yes, I still struggle with anxiety, but it’s not the constant pressure to be the best student a teacher has ever had. It’s not the pressure to try to be top 10 in the class. It was no longer a goal for myself.

Instead, I decided to pursue my passions in education by taking career courses rather than taking AP classes. I’ve let myself do things I enjoy rather than force myself to take classes that will only hold me back from obtaining some sort of happiness.

You know, maybe you actually love taking AP classes, staying up until 1 a.m. on a regular basis, and sitting at Starbucks for three hours staring at a textbook.
Maybe school does give you some sort of happiness. Being an honors student never gave me that, and I always
felt so ashamed that I wasn’t very good at it. Telling myself it was OK to pursue other things made me realize I can be happy without having a 30-plus on my ACT.

I’m an ex-honors student, and that’s OK. I’ve just always needed someone to tell me that.

So I guess this letter isn’t for you after all. It’s for me.