students in the 21st century

January 31, 2008
By
The lives of students in the 21st century mainly consist of a phenomenal amount of tests, exams, and stress. Blindly, we stagger forward, plowing through test after test, our pens mechanically brushing against paper with a solemn, sporadic scribble-scribble-scribble. One may assume that at the end of this long tunnel of tedious, constant effort, there awaits a rewarding gem that is beyond our wildest dreams. However, this assumption is likely to be shattered by the fact that with every academic assessment, we plunge deeper into despair. We ask ourselves, why is that? Why is it that we are never satisfied?

The answer to this everlasting question is surprisingly simple. It is because we humans have a reprehensible tendency to set ridiculously unattainable goals for ourselves. In other words, our expectations are far too high. Allow me to demonstrate with a straightforward illustration: a high school senior with an SAT score of 1800 aspires to receive a 2300 in just one month. When he fails to accomplish this, he cradles his head in his hands in anguish and, rather inaccurately, renders himself useless. What this particular student does not understand is that his initial expectations were ridiculous; however subconsciously, he chooses to deny that it is next to impossible to raise 500 points on the SAT in a mere thirty or so days.

This example, although quite specific, can be applied to any other hypothetical situation, and not just academic-related matters. Salarymen left and right are striving for more money, always more money. Perfectly healthy women are starving themselves senselessly, desperately longing to emulate the stick-like supermodels plastered on various magazine covers. Young men and women in their early twenties graduate from prestigious universities, hoping to achieve profound success in a very short time and afford within three years an apartment in Manhattan all on their own.
Unfortunately, this already ubiquitous symptom is still spreading like a contagious epidemic. We refuse to be content, glaring at the behemoth mountain before us that we have not yet begun to climb, and forevermore gazing up at the peak of this mountain that we are too inept to reach. Eventually, our high hopes triumph over sensible judgment, and we often become unnecessarily distraught even when the results are good. Perhaps the most upsetting truth of all is that there is nothing to blame for this tragedy except for pure human nature; for even I, as the criticizer of such behavior, am forced to admit that I am not a total exception to this rule.

Alas, we fallible human beings are only capable of seeing what is ahead of us; therefore, we do not consider the option of looking back and realizing how far we have come, and how much we have accomplished on the way. This, as dramatic as this word may seem, is tragic. After all, there is an easy solution to our troubles, and that is to lower our expectations. If one realizes that it is not possible to boost one’s grades so much in such a short period of time, that it is unrealistic to wish for so much money, that the models that many women adore and envy are perhaps a little too thin, and that success is an accumulation of trials, risks, errors, failures, and maturation, things will start to become considerably less complicated. Even when things do not end up the way we planned, which they rarely ever do, we will not automatically blame the world, the God above, our parents, or our own abilities; rather, we will recognize that it is in such sticky situations that the importance of realistic expectations manifests itself. Indeed, if we pull down our hopes to a more rational level, we can avoid failure as well as emotional devastation.
So…all students out there, I implore you to just put down your pen for once, step outside, go for a walk, and get your head in order. This request goes for everyone else. When you finally do so, you’ll be in for a surprise; the world has just become a better place.





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