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Competition Over Stress Is Unnecessary

arielaonlineMarlborough, you are quite dear to me. Our relationship has been tumultuous at best, but looking back now, there is no place I would have rather spent these last four years. So I say this from a place of love and appreciation, a last pearl of wisdom before I hand my imaginary “On Point” laurels over to a member of the Class of 2014. Violets, there is something inherently harmful about our self-perpetrated stress culture, specifically the way we compete over our overloaded schedules and sleep deprivation.

We have created a culture where stress is not only inevitable but lauded and encouraged. I recognize that I add to this environment, and for that I am sorry. I throw around the terms “mental breakdown” and “sleep deprivation” as if they are no big deal. After parent meetings in the Collins Room, I scavenge for caffeine in the form of cold coffee and tea bags alongside what seems like the entire Senior Class. When you ask someone within our community, myself included, what comes to mind when she thinks of a Marlborough girl, she gives examples of sleepless nights and tantrums over SAT scores. We forget the moments of joy — fresh-baked Café M cookies, passionate debates over Paradise Lost and ultimate Frisbee competitions on the field — and instead limit our descriptions to Marlborough’s faults. This image we have of our School is unconscious now too; Violet-made terms like “stress bun” are now completely ingrained in our collective Marlborough jargon. We seem to forget that mental exhaustion and constant worrying aren’t good things, but rather unhealthy and unhelpful.

And most tragically, when we let these factors be so inherent to our School culture, we cultivate stress in places where it is unnecessary. We equate apparent mental distress and lack of sleep with heightened dedication and intellect. I often feel as though I have to exaggerate how exhausted I am in order to achieve some sort of social validation, to keep up with the ever-dedicated and brilliant students who surround me. You’ve had four cups of coffee? You got three hours of sleep last night?  I had five Starbucks Trentas and pulled an all-nighter. (Please don’t do that. You will die.) But these bitter quips, seemingly muttered every morning before classes, don’t make anyone happier or healthier. All they do is set a baseline of nerves, a norm that states I will be stressed even before I set foot in these ever-graceful halls of learning each morning.

Of course, some moments of angst and pressure are unavoidable. Those utterly horrible nights of cramming and coffee do exist. But until we stop climbing over each other, asserting that we individually are having the hardest time, we can’t work together to lessen how often such nights occur and how much they affect us. Let’s let our stress be a means of collaboration and support, rather than a way to bring us down further.