Dougherty has a culture of romanticizing poor health and sacrifice. It seems that currently, the student who sleeps the least and throws away their health for academics is the one that is praised by peers for looking towards the future.
This culture has taught us all that between health and schoolwork, you can only choose one. Dougherty’s culture has also taught us all that in order to be a worthwhile student, you must choose schoolwork. In fact, the more you sacrifice your health, the better student you are.
It’s through this that Dougherty students have developed a skewed mindset in which the ideal student is one who sleeps approximately zero hours per night, never eats and always studies.
Many students run around convinced that a 5 on their AP test or a 5.0 GPA will prove to the world that they are ready to be a successful adult. Apparently, we have all also failed to realize that if we don’t take care of our health, we can’t really do anything.
In a survey, 100 percent of responders noted that they were aware that teenagers ought to sleep eight hours per night. However, 66.7 percent also stated that they do not sleep enough. Additionally, 96.3 percent of students responded that they were aware that they ought to drink eight glasses of water per day. Despite this, 40.7 percent admitted that they do not.
Multitudes of studies have been conducted showing that teenage years are important to physical development. Yet it’s at this critical point in our lives that we’ve all chosen to ignore our health.
Of course, we’ve all grown up looking up to sacrifice. And rightly so. We look up to those who have had to give up their comfort for the good of others. We look up to those who came from tough backgrounds, and have still succeeded in life despite difficulties.
We want to be like them.
By “like them,” I don’t necessarily mean we want to succeed or help people. Sure, we might want that, but there’s certainly an underlying wish.
It’s the story.
We all want the story of climbing over a wall. We want to tell others about all the difficulties we’ve overcome. We all want to be august (yes, that’s a sophomore vocabulary word).
We sadly feel that we must create our own struggles to show people how dedicated we are.
And thus, we “sacrifice.”
The problem is that to sacrifice means to give up. One sacrifices when they have no other choice. I understand that there are students who need to sacrifice. I understand that the workload is high and the pressure is even higher. However, at the end of the day, what many Dougherty students do is throw away their health – not sacrifice.
They want to convince the world that they’ve struggled more than others have. They develop a sick pride in throwing away sleep and throwing away health.
Of course, to critique a culture, one ought to interact with the culture. I find that I have interacted too much with Dougherty culture for my own liking – this part of it, at least.
The point is I have been an active participant in the perpetuation of the romanticism of poor health.
For that, I feel deeply regretful.
Looking back, I’m insanely frustrated by the foolish things I’ve said and done to make myself look more hardworking and dedicated. Looking forward, my frustration grows as I envision multitudes of students doing the same thing in the years to come.
As for right now, exasperated would be an appropriate term to describe how I feel whenever health comes up in a conversation.
This pernicious mindset of glorifying poor health has reached far into my own life. It’s pathetic what some of my personal relationships have devolved into, spending a considerable amount of time with my peers being miserable and comparing misery.
Often, if I mention to my friends that I’m exhausted because I slept for four hours, they will tell me to varying degrees that I don’t have the right to be.
“You slept for four? Lucky … I got three.”
“You’re lucky that you slept that much.”
“Well, I pulled an all-nighter.”
When I have a fever and need to stay home from school, someone always happens to chime in and tell me that they have a fever and they went to school. You know, because they’re so dedicated and all.
Is this friendship? I don’t think so. It’s toxic.
When someone is miserable, the last thing they want to hear is another person delegitimizing their reasons for feeling as they do. Instead of feeling kindness or compassion, we instead just give in to our primal need to compete.
Through all this, we’ve numbed ourselves to the idea of throwing away our health. There’s nothing special anymore about sleeping three to four hours per night.
Chemistry teacher Ethan Schnell noted that when students talk about sleep, they often do so in a sarcastic manner. He commented, “It’s like they know they need more sleep, but they just don’t get it.”
However, this is the real world. We cannot simply exist in a bubble where we can kill ourselves over and over again with schoolwork. This is the real world. Where we will grow old and get sick and need to learn to take care of ourselves before running off to cure cancer or change the world in some other way.
At the point where one feels ashamed for saying that they got a full night of sleep, or that one can no longer be concerned about their health without being considered “vain”, it’s obvious that Dougherty’s culture has a glaring problem.
The problem here is complicated.
It’s not that Dougherty itself issues an ultimatum to students to choose between health and academics. However, it’s also not that students have all collectively and arbitrarily developed an overwhelming victim complex and will go to any means to perpetuate it. Rather, it’s that this mindset of “sacrifice” and romanticizing poor health has been deeply ingrained within Dougherty’s culture due to external academic pressures, and most students have simply accepted it.
Dougherty’s academic pressures are no secret. Most faculty member, parents and students are aware of it and the fact that it hurts student health.
“I absolutely think that that [students ignore their health]. Sleep is usually the first to go. The competitive atmosphere pushes students to far more than they can handle,“ notes counselor Sarah Campbell.
Additionally, counselor Megan Sellers comments that she notices more rejection of mental health as opposed to physical health, but also stresses that “school staff tries to encourage balance among with coursework.”
Pressure isn’t the fault of one particular group of people. Parents, teachers and students all have a factor in the competitive atmosphere at Dougherty. However, the idealization of poor health is something that has festered in the student body for too long, and students are the ones who can solve it.
I truly believe that it is possible to foster a community in which poor health is not romanticized in this way. In the meantime, we need to fight a million tiny battles – questioning every label we subconsciously stick on others, questioning every flawed aspect of this ensconced culture. At the end of the day, it’s up to the student on whether or not they choose to participate. The choice is between being subjugated by this toxic culture or fighting it. It’s my hope that you will choose wisely.