“DO YOUR BEST.”
I recently observed a ROCK classroom, where the guest artist, Reverend Ulis Redic, Jr (The Lighthouse Singers Gospel Choir), was preparing students for an upcoming gospel performance. His supportive words for the students touched me, as they were so relevant to my work with you, my counselees. He explained to the class that the goal of the performance was “not about presenting perfection,” but rather, about creating an experience and a memory you could look back on in years to come as something unique and enjoyable. He explained that the teachers in the program and the guest artists were working with the students to push you beyond your comfort zone, introduce you to a new set of skills and abilities, and also to have fun.
Ulis encouraged you to look on your experience in high school (and beyond), not as a race or a competition with other people, but as an opportunity to do your best. He said, “If your best is a C, then that’s your best. If your best is a B, then that’s your best.”
I often wonder about the expectation in our community that every 14, 15, 16 or 17 year old will attain perfection before your brain fully develops, before you’ve had the opportunity to explore your curiosities, before you’ve experimented with and tried to solidify your values, before you’ve taken on challenge and risk and failed, gotten up, and forged ahead anyway, before you’ve experienced even a minute percentage of what your lives have to offer?
You often lament the fact that you are overwhelmed and stressed and tell me that you feel very little joy because you are so busy and over-scheduled (even if every single thing on your schedule is something you would enjoy or succeed at if you weren’t trying to do so many things at once).
I suggest that you slow down, breathe, take a few risks, fall down, get back up, and push the envelope of your current knowledge and skill set. Reflect on what brings you joy and to consider minor changes to create more balance in your lives. This oftentimes creates a perplexing struggle, as you express a desire for more balance, more sleep, more time to enjoy friends and family, yet you simultaneously feel compelled to go faster, take more AP classes, take on more leadership positions, and play more sports. While each and every one of those ideas, taken separately, may be something of interest for a student, when combined, they can be daunting.
There is no one right way for students to manage the competing demands for your time and energy. Each of you has a unique set of interests, curiosities, and talents. Each of you has your own threshold for anxiety and your own resiliency level. The process of determining what will work each semester is well worth more time and consideration by our entire community, as I have seen the level of anxiety rise dramatically in the past five years, and I would love to see that tide change direction.
One day, when you look back and reflect on the four short (yet very formative) years, will a smile cross your face as you recall good times with friends, challenging yet exciting courses, meaningful club activities, outrageous drama performances, gospel singing, dancing hula, creating art, designing web pages, creating videos and music? Or will a grimace appear as you remember feeling stressed, the weight of an overloaded schedule, competition with peers, or a fear of scarcity in terms of college opportunities?
Life is long and there are never-ending and ever-expanding opportunities to learn and grow, earn degrees, find direction, then switch directions as new curiosities and interests emerge. You have many decades stretching out before you. Please pace yourselves.
DON’T EVEN THINK OF PEAKING NOW, WHEN YOU ARE JUST STARTING OUT ON YOUR ADVENTURE. DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING PERFECT. JUST BE THE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT AND ONLY YOU. JUST “DO YOUR BEST.”
“What you do today is important because
you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”
"There is more to life than increasing its speed."