Why do I waste my time?
It’s a fascinating question, and has proved rather unanswerable in recent years. I think that, potentially, it’s somewhat evolutionary. Now hear me out, despite my lazy millenial status-
When one is confronted with an unknown and undefeatable danger, one has traditionally always fought, or fled. Of course- that stands to reason. But there is a third reaction: it’s that deer in headlights feeling. It’s that frozen into place, heart pounding, body shaking, immovable feeling. Your blood might be rushing to escape, your heart beating frantically against the cage of your ribs; but your body remains as stone, still and frozen as the mountains.
Historically of course this reaction was generally induced by a rather large and hungry cat, of the leopard or lion-like persuasion, however nowadays things are quite different. The majority of the western world is unlikely to experience being held at claw point by a large and hungry mammal (if anything, the western world would probably pay for this experience just to flesh out their “story time: I was nearly fed to lions!?” youtube video), but we are confronted by other perils- perils of the far more insipid kind.
If you’re in academic education you’re probably painfully aware of these dangers, what with them circling around you like the self made sharks of oncoming panic and an ongoing mental breakdown. For those not in education, here’s an explanatory list:
You have a towering workload. It’s engulfed most of your life. 98% of your time is spent trying to tackle it.
Your teachers are largely inept. They may have good intentions, but do their intentions line up with what the exam boards require? Are you being taught the content you need? Are you being taught it in a way that’s at all conducive to learning? (This may sound rather hyperbolic but, in my case, for 5/8 teachers the answer is a resounding no; and it’s not their fault.) Both students and teachers are trapped in an impossible position-
And that get’s us onto the exam boards. Why, why, why would they do this to you? You’re not learning about a subject: you’re learning how to tiptoe your way through a minefield of potential slip ups and intentional difficulties masquerading as a mark scheme. It’s a ridiculous amount of additional work and mental training, and it’s painfully specific.
You also need to be keeping a track of your social life; but not too much! (Remember, time spent socialising is a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing additional past papers.)
You also need to be looking after yourself; but again, not too much! (Remember, time spent on yourself is a waste of irreplacable time that could be spent revising.)
You also need to be thinking about the future: but, of course, not too much. (God forbid you miss any school time for university visits!)
You also need to become a working adult; but of course, not too much! (Remember, you might need the work experience, but time spent earning money is a wasted opportunity for additional reading around your subjects!)
And finally, you need to be bettering yourself as an academic and person. Remember, school alone is not going to give you the portfolio of skills you need. That’s a laughable assumption! You have to cultivate those on your own, in your own time.
The question is, when do we get our own time? How do we confront our seemingly insurmountable workloads, along with the amassed pressures of a society with incredibly unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved in very limited free time by age 18?
The only reason anyone is achieving anything academic this young is because they are entirely sacrificing other aspects of their life. This might be socialising, or mental wellbeing, or physical health through lack of sleep; either way, the youth of today are plagued by a jostling list of impossible tasks, all within a hugely pressurised environment.
And the worst thing is, I know this mental turmoil is partially my fault. I should be thankful to even have an education, to live in a country that allows me to go to school, or to uni, or to work. I should ignore the cultural mandate to socialise online, and ignore the creative opportunities the internet brings. I should only use technology as a tool for academic learning, rather than as a drain on my academic abilities when they are being pushed to the absolute limit. I should be at breaking point at all times- That’s how I know that I’m working. I should be thankful.
I should have achieved less earlier on, because then less would be expected of me now.
Why do I waste my time? Because, when confronted with all of my soon-to-be academic failures, I go into meltdown. My brain is like a deer trapped in headlights. My body ceases to function. I stay sedentary, in a state of internal panic unlike anything I have experienced before. I waste my time. I don’t attempt, because I know I can’t achieve.
Because this is frightening.
Because it’s impossible.
Writer’s note: In writing this piece, I have ensured that I will be behind in homework for at least the next week. I’m not mad about it, but it is rather sad.