“Kids these days.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard an adult mock teenagers and young adults, I’d be rich enough to pay off all of my future student loans. I can’t understand the criticism, personally – adults might say we’re too young to understand, but I think they’ve forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. Not to mention, times have changed dramatically since back then. Numbers don’t lie: statistically, baby boomers are better off than millennials, and will still be better off than Generation Z – the current generation – if the trend continues.
Kids these days – what’s that supposed to mean? If it means staying up until ungodly hours doing homework and studying for tests, consuming half of your body weight in caffeine, being conditioned to believe that your worth depends on your GPA, the gradual decline of college acceptance rates, and the constant reminder that this matters for college apps – then yes, absolutely, kids these days.
Being an adult is undeniably hard, but being a teenager is hard too.
In a survey conducted by the Princeton Review about student life in America, fifty-six percent of high school students report being happy on a typical day – which seems fine at first and all, but quickly becomes unsettling: what about the other forty-four percent? Close to fifty-percent of high school students aren’t happy on a typical day, a near 1:1 ratio. Sixty-six percent of girls and fifty-four percent of boys report being stressed – more than half. It’s a ratio that shouldn’t exist.
But reality is harsh, and this is the kind of world that we live in: a world where we trade in sleepless nights for better grades. A world where success is measured in numbers and not happiness. A world in which our youth is left to waste away.
Though, it wasn’t always like this. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe, but there was once a time when we amounted to more than a collection of letters and numbers. There was once a time when we weren’t bogged down by stress. The chime of the recess bell has long vanished from my memory, but I’ll never forget what I felt when I was dangling from the monkey bars. I’ll never forget how I felt when I ran as far and as fast as my tiny feet could take me during an intense game of tag.
I felt like I could live until infinity and beyond.
Now, I don’t feel much of anything.
Flashback to freshman year biology: at this instant, anyone breathing – whether it be their last or first or everything in between – is alive. We’re all composed of cells, growing exponentially by the nanoseconds. We’re all growing and developing, our hearts thump inside the cages of our chests to remind us that we still physically exist. Scientifically, we’re all alive.
But only a small percentage of us are actually living.
Day in, day out, we go through the same routine: wake up, go to school, do homework, go to bed. On occasion, we have some free time to spare, but oftentimes, that’s not the case. There’s no rest for the weary.
We’re so caught up in our troubles and the almost suffocating pressure to amount to something that we forget how to truly live. We’re slowly going under, drowning in a vast, unexplored ocean.
Living is more than just being alive. Living is waking up and being ready to face the new day. Living is allowing yourself to be human and relax. Living is finding joy, no matter how big or small, in everything you do – and February 7th, 2018, Global School Play Day, allowed me to do just that.
In that moment, my troubles melted away under the sweltering heat and dissipated into nothingness. For one hour, I wasn’t thinking about my grades or tests or anything. I was just there, living in the moment, unconcerned about the immediate future and more concerned about potentially drawing an Exploding Kitten in Exploding Kittens. I saw similar thoughts in my classmates’ posts. “Usually I’ll think about the rest of my day and worry over how I’m going to do everything, but all I could think about was how I can destroy others at Uno,” Safa wrote.
Something about seeing my classmates so relaxed sparked something in me. I’ve known most of these people for more than a year, so I can say without uncertainty that they’re all high-achieving honors and AP students set on the path for success. But Global School Play Day reminded me that behind the honors student facades, we’re all just kids at heart, trying to make the most of our youth while we still can. Fifteen is a far cry from adulthood, after all.
Whether they played a riveting game of Uno, pursued their dreams of being a surgeon in Operation, or engaged in friendly competition during a handball game, there was nothing but pure joy on their faces. You could easily discern it from the way the corners of their mouths perked up and the glimmer in their eyes.
This. This is what it means to live.
To feel like you can live until infinity and beyond.
In all honesty, I wish I did more during Global School Play Day. I wish I had mustered up my courage and asked to join that almost excessively large Uno group – because living is taking risks, big and small. I wish I had remembered to bring my deck of playing cards. You don’t truly appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone, and although I had plenty of fun that day, there was also so much more that I could have done.
“You only live once.”
I always thought that it was a cheesy phrase, but Global School Play Day gave it a whole new meaning in my eyes. Even if we only did it as much as twice a year, during one period, that would be enough. Even a one hour reprieve from schoolwork to play is enough to alleviate a good chunk of stress.
If we live our lives without play, it’s like we haven’t lived at all. Through play, we ignite the spark of curiosity and learning for the sake of learning – and who says you can’t work hard and play hard?
Over the course of one period, I took back my stolen childhood that previously slipped through my hands and embraced it, in all of its worry-free nature. If we incorporate play on a more regular basis, there’s a good chance that anxiety and depression rates in high school students will decrease.
Through the power of play, maybe the kids will be alright again.