Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Narrowing down the options

"U.S. teens more stressed than adults" a FoxNews headline read today.


I could have told you that the teenagers I see are more stressed than adults, and there's a good reason - they're too busy!

The high school girls that I teach in dance have a terrible attendance record, and I have heard an enormous amount of excuses: Basketball and volleyball games, cheering for basketball games and wrestling meets, show choir, jazz choir, choir and band concerts, theatre, driver's ed, too much homework to do because they have been at other activities all evening, headache because they got up at 5 a.m. to make 6 a.m. practice...

The list goes on and on.

When I hit high school, I also was involved in a ton of stuff. I tried mock trial, cheerleading, choir, fall and spring theatre productions. Plus I was in dance class, had church youth group and I had all my schoolwork.

My sophomore year, my mom told me to pick the one thing I liked best and to stick with it. On top of having to do school, she said that it's best to give your all to something than to give everything a part of you. I chose dance. I was on the dance team at school and took dance class one night each week. I still had church and school, so that was plenty for my plate but still allowed me sleep and some time with friends.

Why are kids so busy? Why do parents pressure them to do everything? It's a better lesson to learn how to manage your time than to get experience in everything, especially if you don't love everything you're doing.

Yes, colleges want to see a well-rounded person. However, that also means a person who knows what it means to live, not just to eat and sleep at home while spending every other moment at school for some activity or another. No one expects you to do everything. It's not possible.

The lesson I learned in high school has helped me throughout my life. In college, I gave up dance team because I wanted to focus on the newspaper, because I knew that would lead to a better job after college. In my adult life, I've learned that I can't be involved in every organization and volunteer for everything people ask me to, because it's important to have balance. My family is my priority, and that means saying "No" to activities and sometimes even to friends.

I think a lot of it is parents. I would have continued trying to do too much in high school had my mom not made me think about my priorities and how important it is to give your 100 percent. I wouldn't want to see any of my dancers go, but I also want them to be happy and to put their effort toward what they truly enjoy rather than trying to do everything.

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