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Editorial: Alum sparks conversation

If you got the medically recommended amount of sleep last night (9.2 hours for an average teenager), you can stop reading now. There is nothing this article can do for you. Just enjoy it and hope the rest of us sleep-deprived zombies never find out.

The rest of you should probably learn to prioritize. There are more important things than reading your Middle School newspaper. Try studying for your next history test. Or napping. Or maybe thinking about why you haven’t had a solid eight hours of sleep since you were in 6th Grade.

That’s part of the issue that Danna Drori ’91, who spoke at the Mar. 14 All-School Meeting,  tried to address. Drori, the valedictorian of her class, talked about her struggle with cancer and the harms of a stress-filled, career-focused life. She was honest about the constant pressure to get into the right college and have a “good” career. She is also uniquely qualified to decry such pressures as a Yale graduate and successful lawyer. This doesn’t mean that stress is good, or even necessary. It seems to shows us that stress is effective.

As the School’s selection of Drori as a speaker shows, a college prep school might just be biased when it comes to what constitutes success. But there is no one fast track to happiness. A closet computer geek who spends four years running track and padding her SAT scores might get into Harvard, but, then again, she might not. As the pool of college applicants widens, top universities have become more focused on finding students who they think are ‘unique’ or “interesting” or “passionate.”  But unique, interesting and passionate people don’t need an Ivy League resume to have successful lives.

No matter how many studies show us that attending an Ivy League school has no effect on future happiness, Marlborough still measures its success by admissions. There are plenty of happy, fulfilled people who grow up to own alternative bookstores or make Japanese silk prints or collect migratory tribal art or mature goat cheese, but they’re probably not in your class.

When a girl tries to cut down her workload, as Drori suggested, her classmates can be more critical than a college counselor. We students are just as responsible for creating a culture of stress. Be honest. What was your response the last time your friend reported, bleary-eyed, that she was up until three in the morning doing homework? “Lucky. I was up at four.” I did the same thing not four paragraphs ago.

The only way to break the tyranny of the “college equals success” system and get our eight hours is to form a community of teenage girls who don’t need external validation from their peers or parents for emotional fulfillment. Of course, the hormonal alteration technology to achieve this is at least two decades away. In the mean time, those of us who are finishing op-ed columns at the relatively tame hour of 11:30 p.m. should probably get some sleep.