(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons


November 3, 2022

         “We seem to have created this culture of competing to see who can withstand the most dismal circumstances, or the most severe circumstances,” Mr. Aaron Sulkin, English teacher, elaborates on his experience interacting with students of various grade levels–while also commentating on hustle culture as a whole. “Just because you can take it doesn’t mean you have to. Suffering is not an Olympic sport, or a superpower.”

          Among increasingly younger generations, there lies an intrinsic sense of dread in the prospect of growing older. It is fundamental to the betterment of our society’s mental health as a whole for us to figure out why that is. Do some abhor the concept of never getting married due to fear of being alone or do we fear the change in behavior of those around us once we reach a certain point in life while still being unmarried? Do we feel the obligation to attend remarkably expensive 4-year colleges because we want to or because we will otherwise be questioned after graduation? As I’ve struggled my way through my junior and senior year of high school, I’ve watched these thoughts consume both myself and my peers. Not only that, but I’ve witnessed the scalding scars of this inevitable growing pain in the tired eyes and frown lines of older people who never quite met the margin and continued to live life in a distanced, isolated state ever since.

         The bombardment of expectations that come with approaching the “adult” age (in every legal sense, despite not being at all developmentally different from age seventeen to eighteen), is something that hits everyone at different times and at different weights. Despite the slight variations in this experience, the symptoms are notably similar and the effects all present themselves in the same manner. The “Social Clock Theory” is an enigma of sorts that weaves its way into the dimensions and infrastructure of all cultures and societies, yet has a number of presumed causes. For some, the pressure of needing to do “this” before “that age” or fill out that application due to everyone else your age doing the same is something that lies largely on extrinsic factors. Those being either the pressures of family members, or simply the state of the socioeconomic environment in general. Pursuing a passion on your own accord, or achieving academic milestones and striving for jobs that will make your relatives beam and show you off to others like a prized trophy. 

       “Since I was little, my biggest motivation in school and academics has been to one day become an immigration lawyer,” Dayanna Corado-Hernandez, 12,  sighed as we sat in the hallway to the Broadcast Filming room. She is in the process of detailing both the origins of her lifelong aspiration, while also explaining the dilemma she occasionally experiences when thinking about her current pursuit. 

        “I feel like I struggle sometimes in figuring out whether that desire of mine is something that I personally want, or whether it is something that was a byproduct of watching my family and loved ones struggle. I want to be the person that they would have needed, and it’s something I truly desire–but, sometimes I just find myself thinking about the ‘what ifs’.” Corado-Hernandez continues on the topic of how this sort of dichotomy can cause such an intense sense of pressure and anxiety. 

          These pressures are something that we all encounter at one point or another in our lives. We want to make people proud, we want to feel as though we have accomplished something worthy of being noted by our loved ones. It can be a difficult endeavor to find a middle-ground within this conflict, in finding the unsteady, small bridge between what your heart desires and what our parents desire. However, it is important to acknowledge that oftentimes–the fear of others’ expectations of our own life choices are not so realistic as much as they are a projection of our own internalized doubts and fears.

          “More often than not, your parents will not be nearly as angry at you for getting a C on that quiz as much as you will.” Once again, Sulkin speaks from his point of view as a teacher who is close with many students. He has many who consider him a source to confide in, and has seen just how destructive our own perfectionism and depreciation can become when left to fester. 

          Regardless of how it manifests itself, these doubts and fears are one of the many human experiences that can either alleviate itself as you grow more comfortable with your own pace, or  exacerbate and drag you further down a rabbit hole of empty comparison and needless shame. The lives that we lead, both in high school as well as beyond it–into the adult world, are nobody’s to dictate other than ourselves. Existence in itself brings with it a multitude of cumbersome hardships and grief, the least that we can do is alleviate that stress and be kind to ourselves. The decisions that we make in our lives, at various times and surrounded by various people, are all shards of decorative glass that are delicately plastered together to portray an image of our journeys. For the better or for the worse, we will all continue to do things on our own time. Our time on this Earth is remarkably limited, so it is overall within our best interests to set down the stopwatch, take a deep breath, and shorten our strides to accommodate our own pace.

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