To Break or Not to Break

The seemingly joyous Friday before Thanksgiving Break is not the same. Only two years past, when I was a mere newcomer in this Dougherty Valley High School world, I thought Thanksgiving Break was a miracle. There was no school. There was no homework. There were no teachers that actually expected me to not fall asleep in their class despite the It’s 7:30 in the morning fact and of course the This class is just plain boring fact. Except as the years wore on, Thanksgiving Break, or breaks in general, developed a different connotation. Instead, I’m finding myself struggling to deal with the even more important question: To break or not to break?

In our dear Dougherty Valley, breaks seem even busier than the regular school year. Because of the competitive environment, students are pushing themselves to take more and more Advanced Placement classes along with extracurricular activities. These come with massive workloads during the seemingly carefree breaks. Students are given the 293 page Huckleberry Finn to finish for AP Literature, the packet complete with two articles for AP European History and that doesn’t even include the “Turkey Packet” for AP Chemistry.  Some teachers are as nice to not assign any “official” homework, but instead tell us that there is a test the day we get back. How nice. Even seniors free from the Catch-22 of homework have college applications to worry about. That doesn’t even include the everyday work of perfecting extracurricular activities, such as practicing for band, orchestra, a sport, Speech and Debate, or volunteering.

To “break” is an option available to many of the underclassmen since there simply isn’t anything to be done. Freshman Eva Gu states that her favorite part of Thanksgiving Break is the lack of stress. Freshman Christopher Tong says that he will do one hour of homework and split the remaining time between playing video games and sleeping. Sophomore Somya Jain announces that she will spend three days in Santa Barbara vacationing with her family and use the remainder of her time to sleep. These images are the usual and expected responses for every day off of school. Indeed, there is nothing better than doing nothing at all. To steal these images from the almost half of the school, is like what only a Robber Baron would do. Piece of advice: enjoy every minute because free time will never come back.

“Not to break” seems to be the only other option available for those with a large workload. This means spending a week of pure torture and cramming in hours of homework and feeling guilty whenever nothing productive is being done. This method is used far more by juniors and seniors. It means hours and hours of studying for the SAT and writing for college applications. Enough said.

Nonetheless, there is still a third and best option: To both break and not break. I don’t mean this as protesting in front of the school office for the burning of homework, but even with hours of studying and being productive, there is still a bit of room for fun.  Sophomore Michelle Su states that outside of her 8+ hours (thanks to Mr. Schnell’s Turkey Packet), she plans to hang out with her friends. Junior Augustine Chemparathy, will (try) to do three hours of homework and extracurriculars such as Science Bowl and USABO per day. Senior Steven Chen says that he plans to spend his break sleeping and relaxing along with fifteen hours of school studying and college apps. Although in reality, sleeping will probably take priority over everything else, a good balance can be found. A break is a break simply because it provides a refuge from the slaving school days and the nonstop homework.

It seems ridiculous that students have so much to worry about over Thanksgiving Break, and breaks in general, but the fact cannot be changed. The only way to survive, almost literally, is to relax. So even though everything starts to spiral downward as years pass, there is always a way to set aside the one hour, five hour, or even twenty plus hour workloads. Do something enjoyable. Don’t hole up in the corner of a room and take the advice of many students to watch the premiere of Catching Fire. Bake food, watch TV, make pottery. Do the most revered activity of all: sleep.

For all of you, I hope you enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. Be grateful for the mere one week break and all the little things in it, the good and the bad. Although breaks may not seem like actual breaks any longer, try to find a perfect balance between free time and studying. For those of you reading this article and sighing in recognition of the multiple AP Literature and U.S. History examples, this provides a perfect example of a balance. As junior Sunny Ren summarizes, “I’m going to spend my break watching dramas and crying over cellular respiration.”

And remember, there will always be hope in sight: only seventeen days until the not-really-a-break Winter Break!