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“Hey Maddie, want to come over after school?” Riley asked as they got on the bus.
“I don’t know, I have homework…” Maddie replied, and suddenly all of the work she had to do tonight rushed into her head.
The rest of the bus ride, Maddie worked on her math homework. Although she rode the bus for 30 minutes, she only got through 2 out of the 20 problems. She needed everything to be perfect, she needed to get every answer right, or else it wasn’t good enough.
As soon as she got home she rushed up to her room and got out everything she needed to do. 3 folders, 2 textbooks, and a notebook were stacked on her desk and she felt her stress levels rising, but she pushed the stress aside and got to work.
The questions that took everyone else 5 minutes took her 10. She couldn’t live knowing everything wasn’t perfect. She had high expectations for herself and felt the constant need to fulfill them.
Two hours later, she heard her mom call her downstairs for dinner. Where had the time gone? She had only gotten through math and got a start on English, but she was nowhere near done.
She brought the book she needed to read for English downstairs with her and read it while eating; she couldn’t let any time go to waste. Immediately after dinner she went upstairs to continue her work.
Maddie checked her phone for a moment, seeing pictures of friends having fun. She wished she could join them, but then glanced back at the papers and books sprawled out over her desk. She just didn’t have the time.
Although she completed many assignments, she never felt relief; there was always more work to do. It felt like she’d never reach the bottom of the pile and she’d be stuck in the endless cycle that homework brought.
At 12:30 she finally finished everything. She only had time to shower and go right to bed, only to be woken up 5 hours later to start the process all over again.
Everyday was the same; she got home, did homework, and by the time she finished there was no time for leisure. She never got a break, not only from the homework but from the continual stress it brought.
She wanted to be able to enjoy her time, not let it go to waste as she slaved away at countless packets and worksheets. She decided she just wouldn’t do it.
Tuesday night she cast her homework aside and went to Riley’s house. Although she had fun, she couldn’t push away the underlying stress that the homework left at home brought her. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she would do tomorrow when it was time to turn it in. One small grade brought her so much anxiety.
Wednesday, she went into her classes fearing her life, but she ended up not needing to turn in some homework, and if she did, the 5 points not entered into the gradebook had no affect on her grade. She still felt terrible about herself, so that night, she did the minimum; not spending extra time on problems she questioned. She finished her homework early that night, at 6, and had time to herself for once.
However, that night as she was trying to fall asleep, she couldn’t get the thought of imperfection out of her head. She ended up staying up just as late as she would if she had done the homework the best she could.
Thursday morning came and she stressed for the results of what she believed to be a poor decision the night before. However, she found that everything turned out better than she could have hoped. Maybe everything wasn’t perfect, but still very well done.
Maddie once spent her time longing for perfection, but now understands that, while doing your best is important, it’s vital to do the best thing for yourself. She continues to struggle with balancing the different aspects of her life, as the habit is one she’s used to, but now has a better understanding of what the priority should be.