By Shruthi Ravichandran
If these pictures are familiar to you, this article is for you.
Disclaimer: This article includes large amounts of caps lock, bolding, over-exaggeration, bad drawings, references to nonexistent mathematical formulas, and a semi-famous German man. Reader caution advised.
There’s this unwritten rule in my head that every year I have to get into a “better” sleep schedule: wake up earlier, go to sleep earlier. Needless to say, previous studies into Shruthi sleep patterns (by Shruthi) have shown this is most definitely not the case. In fact, data (and by data I mean how large the dark circles under my eyes are, see Figure 1) shows that every year my bedtime gets pushed significantly later and I scramble out of bed just in time to race past Ms. Oberholtz and turn back to see sleepy BlazersTM have to sign the sheet.
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, maybe I deserve some sort of medal for creating an optimization function (I call it exhaustionTM, see Figure 2) that allows me to sleep in just long enough before rushing to throw clothes on, get in the car, and still make it to school on time (most days hehe). On the other hand, I feel like a hot mess.
BUT WHY?? Experts are always saying teens need to get 8-10 hours of sleep, but after thorough statistical analysis (by which I mean talking to my sleep deprived friends), it’s clear to me that that is by far the exception rather than the norm. Now, I could talk forever about the reasons for this and how society fosters a cut-throat academic environment that subconsciously forces us to overexert ourselves to try to always perform at 110%, comparing ourselves to our peers in a zero sum game, and having incredibly detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. But instead (!!), I’ll focus on how I’m trying to deal with it. Disclaimer: of course different things work for different people so do what’s comfy for you!! I’m just sharing what has helped me in case it’s helpful to anyone else 🙂
First of all, I sincerely don’t believe that anyone has it together. Maybe that’s too hot of a take and if so, I stand corrected, but for the MOST part, all of us are going through it. Please please please please please stop comparing yourself to your friends. WAIT. That’s important. Read it again. I don’t just mean like don’t compare grades and things like that, I mean even subconsciously. It’s really normal and human of us to look at someone and be like sighsiesTM they have it all together. BUT THEY (almost always in my experience please don’t come for me because I am speaking in absolutes for emphasis) DON’T. That one friend who seems like they get 10 hours of sleep a night, all As in their classes, and has the social life you pine for, PROBABLY DOESN’T HAVE IT ALL. And honestly, even if they did (which again, they probably dont – see above), that doesn’t change who you are or your capacity to manage things or even your interest in doing all of the things they do.
TL;DR: IT DOESN’T MATTER. So what??? I think the problem is when we try to console people by approaching it from only a “they don’t have it all” point of view. Because let’s say by some weird miracle, they do. Then what?? Now you’re back to square one. That’s why I think it’s so important to approach it from an, even if they do, SO WHAT?? point of view. To prove my point I’ll provide a rather weird analogy.
Meet Andre. He holds the world record for most hot dogs eaten in one minute: 11! (just 11 with emphasis, not 39916800 for my math lovers out there). I don’t eat hot dogs (where my veggie babies at??), so that doesn’t mean a lot to me, but Andre also has the record for most peanut butter eaten in a minute. Now, I love peanut butter and I like to eat a lot of peanut butter. Andre can eat peanut butter faster than I can. He can eat more of it. Andre is just a better peanut butter consumer than I am. But does this make me love peanut butter any less? You as a reader are likely rolling your eyes at this very minute, but IT’S TRUE. It seems obvious when we take the example of Andre and Shruthi but what about you and your friend or you and that one girl in your class who gets 100 on every test?? Same rules apply, bud.
Here’s some other records Andre has:
- Most Marmite eaten in one minute
- Most jelly eaten with chopsticks in one minute
- Most yoghurt eaten in one minute
- Most envelopes torn in half in 30 seconds
- Most cucumbers sliced from a person’s mouth with a sword
- Fastest time to arrange a chess set (team of two)
- Most tennis balls bounced and caught blindfolded in one minute (team of two)
- Most mashed potato eaten in one minute
- Most single garland passes in one minute
- Most soup eaten in 30 seconds
- Most chocolate spread eaten in one minute
- Most garland exchanges by a team of two in one minute
- Most lemons caught blindfolded in 30 seconds (team of two)
- Most lemons caught blindfolded in one minute (team of two)
As you can see, this man is pretty talented (who knew you could slice a cucumber from a person’s mouth with a sword???, see Figure 3). On the surface, Andre has it all – an ability to eat ungodly amounts of condiments, catch lemons, chop cucumbers, have nice hair, the whole nine yards. BUT, does Andre threaten you? Do you feel less of a person because Andre can eat more jelly with a chopstick than you can?? Hopefully not! BECAUSE YOU DO THINGS ANDRE CAN’T DO. And you do things Andre probably doesn’t want to do. And you also do some things Andre and you could do together if you ever met up after ‘rona sznTM.
This is easy to understand when it’s Andre, but the same rules apply when it’s you and a classmate. If it helps, picture your classmate as a 30??-something-year-old German man.
ALL OF THIS TO SAY, someone else’s success DOES NOT DIMINISH YOURS. It does not make you any less or them any more. Success is INDEPENDENT. Yes, in a competition, perhaps there’s only one winner, but LIFE IS NOT A COMPETITION. Read that again!!
It’s not your fault you feel like this – our educational system prioritizes comparisons between students because frankly, it’s the easiest way to motivate someone (you can thank evolution for that!). But for the sake of your mental health, it’s so freeing to realize that you DO. NOT. have to compete with those around you. Trying to gets you into situations where you end up doing things you don’t love and LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR THAT. If that sounds like a giant cliche to you, it’s only because it’s so true it cannot be emphasized enough.
We’re living through a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. I will say that again because I feel like it’s easy to miss. A. GLOBAL. PANDEMIC. I think that we all know it, but not all of us know it. We’re stuck at home and have to wear masks (WEAR MASKS PLEASE) and stay six feet away from all other people (STAY SIX FEET AWAY FROM PEOPLE PLEASE), but it took me forever (about 6 months of quarantine) to realize the toll this takes on your mental health. More than ever, we have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow so all we can focus on is trying to get through today. Realize that, and give yourself a break.
TL;DR: really try to stop holding yourself to an impossible standard that doesn’t exist and just do your best, be kind to yourself, try not to compare yourself to others (including Andre), and get those Zs. You’re so much more productive if you are well-rested and honestly, the “studying” that you’re doing at 2 am is probably not really going to help you on the test. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, CHECK IN ON THOSE AROUND YOU AND, AND DRINK WATER (hydrate or diedrate).
If you ever need someone to talk to, shoot me an email! Reach out to people that you care about and trust and know that things will get better. The sun rises every single day no matter how hard things get, and so can you 🙂
Sending my love before another afternoon nap,