The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

To Be or Not to Be Enough

Art by Sami McKenney

I’ve developed a new ritual this year. I do it every time I open my agenda. Flipping through my color-coded tabs to find the right page, I always catch myself wondering what it would feel like to get there and see absolutely nothing.

No messages to send, assignments to do or meetings to remember – I can only dream it. In the six months I’ve been a junior, there hasn’t been one day free of schoolwork. Sometimes, I open my laptop at dawn and barely take my eyes off it until well past midnight.

As juniors, we’re sprinting on the hamster wheel that is the road to higher education. Anyone will tell you it’s the year that really counts.

We worship the college admissions process. We strain through mind-numbing burnout and exhaustion in hope that some faceless admissions officer somewhere will be mildly impressed. At the same time, we hate the way it reduces us to the sum of all our accomplishments. 

I want colleges to see me as more than one success-machine selected from many, rewarded for optimal performance during my high school trial-run. 

But they don’t – they can’t. There are too many applicants and not enough time to get to know each one individually. Our applications are really just summaries of our accomplishments, and students do anything to be the kid with the longest list, often at the expense of their mental health.

The title of “high achiever” should not come with assured mental harm. 

Similarly, the most tangible mark of high school success should not be a severe lack of sleep. I’m an athlete outside of school and an honors/AP student. I do my clubs. I do my service hours. I do all the things colleges say they want, and I do them at the expense of my eight hours.

The deficit has been deep since freshman year, but now I feel like I’m doing homework by flashlight every night in the Mariana Trench of sleep deprivation, alongside all my other exhausted peers. Tiredness seems adjacent to an epidemic at EHS, and not just for juniors.

The sleep problem is compounded by near constant stress. AP and honors homework, honors society applications, ACT and SAT testing, college touring and more – why does it all have to be done within one year?

And truly, I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned this year, but I think there’s probably a path toward success that doesn’t involve weekly stress-induced migraines.

Here’s what I tell myself when I’m encroaching on that abyss beyond burnout: upper limits exist outside of pre-calculus. Your application might get you into college, but if your mental health issues are all-consuming, it’s not going to matter that you’re at your dream school. You’re going to regret it.

It’s frustrating that we have to put those limits on ourselves because those who define our success refuse to. 

About the Contributor
Sami McKenney, Opinion Editor
Sami McKenney is a junior, a second-year journalism student, and the opinion editor of The Claw and Tiger Times Online. She is co-president of Creative Arts Club and a member of the Women’s History and Empowerment Club, NFHS, French Club, and the Ethics Bowl team. Outside of school, Sami can be found almost every day at Turning Pointe Academy of Dance, either in classes or in rehearsal for its pre-professional company: Tour Dance. Additionally, she is an avid reader, cat lover, and Taylor Swift enthusiast. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism and is extremely grateful to be part of such a supportive program and capable team of staff members with whom to start her journey!