Column: The pile that never ends


Many students struggle with staying productive during the school year.

Mia Hennen, Reporter

I often hear people say how easy it is to allow life to pass them by. When I first heard this, I couldn’t fathom how it was possible. Life is everywhere; how can someone close their eyes and miss so much?

During the portion of the year that I’m in school, I try to balance academics, work, personal relationships, hobbies and whatever else I feel necessary. It’s difficult enough trying to do all these tasks in the short days we get and even harder to execute them well. When I falter or allow myself to relax, my guilty conscience consumes me. If I’m not constantly being “productive,” what am I doing with my life? If I take a break, will my future self suffer as a result? Thoughts like these run rampant through my mind daily.

I don’t think I was born or wired this way. Thinking back to the days when I was a little middle schooler or even a freshman in high school, this mindset of constant productivity didn’t plague me as it does now. It’s futile trying to pinpoint when this change occurred, but no matter when it did, the result is still the same. 

Even during quarantine, when life seemingly stopped, I still experienced this. If I wasn’t doing online school or working, I had to be doing something I deemed productive: writing, searching for scholarships, looking into colleges, studying for the ACT, etc. Even the hobbies that I used to enjoy, like reading and drawing, seemed more like chores than fun pastimes.

Then, when school started this year, my world felt like it was crashing all around me. All the tasks and work needing to be done kept piling and piling, and it felt like no matter how many hours I dedicated to my definition of productivity, it would never be enough. Some days, I struggle to find motivation for anything when the pile of work never seems to disappear. 

Although I’m able to recognize these problems, I don’t think there is a neat little solution to the way I feel and how I’m sure many others feel; however, something short of an epiphany hit me recently.

On my way home from school just a few days ago, I was running through all that I had to do for the week. Just one week’s worth of work sent my stomach into knots at how much I’d have to be alone in my room, hunched over my desk, trying to finish it all. 

After I parked my car in the garage, I was about to head inside when a gust of cool wind hit me. I’m not a fan of the humid Kansas weather that we experience all summer, so this was— literally and figuratively— a breath of fresh air. I decided to take a moment before I stepped inside and began to tackle the pile. Looking out and over my cul-de-sac with the wind acting as a better energy boost than any caffeinated drink, I realized it is easy to let life pass you by, but only if you let it.

Times are difficult, but they won’t always be. There will be periods where the pile is smaller, and all you can do is take advantage of those opportunities, whenever they may come. While waiting for these moments, it’s essential to stop and gather yourself, even if that means simply stepping outside for a brief moment and taking a breath.