Every day as we scroll through Facebook, listen to motivational speakers, look at inspirational posters, get lectured by our parents, one message is hammered into us, time and time again: take every opportunity that comes your way.
‘Seize the moment because opportunities don’t come twice’
The amazing thing about high school is that there are so, so many awesome opportunities that are handed to us on a silver platter. No need to go searching, or create your own, like in real life – all you need to do is put your name down at interval and voila, you’re in. Every opportunity you could ever dream of, from clubs to conferences to exchanges to sports, is right at your fingertips – seizing the day has never been easier.
I am a chronic opportunity-taker, a poster child for all those motivational quotes. I will sign up for anything and everything that comes my way. And thanks to the endless opportunities of high school, that’s a lot of stuff. Since year 7, I’ve accumulated a daunting pile of extracurriculars that are regular commitments. Student council, librarian, instruments, peer mediation, stage challenge, choir, student volunteer army, football, various committees – you name it, I’ve done it.
‘In the end, what we regret most are the chances we didn’t take’
I am also a stubborn perfectionist. For me, that means I throw myself fully into anything that I’m working on, give 110% effort until I’m happy that I’ve done enough, that my project is the best I could possibly make it. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love getting involved and trying new things, and I’ve enjoyed all the opportunities I’ve had. I love working so hard on something, and I love being busy. But it’s all getting a bit too much.
At this point, term 2 of year 12, the schoolwork is coming thick and fast. Internals, revision, and homework are stacking up, and the piles of opportunities that I’ve taken are becoming a burden. My calendar is packed, and my to do list is miles long. No amount of organisation can fix the fact that I have A LOT to do. My life has been busy busy busy and I feel like I haven’t had a breather in months. I haven’t had any time to relax or do things I enjoy – I come home from school or work, and work on getting stuff done until I crash, exhausted late at night. I had meetings every lunchtime this week so I barely saw my friends. I’m tired and stressed and overwhelmed – and I really can’t give 100% effort to everything at this point. It feels like I’m juggling so many balls at once that one wrong move and they might all come crashing down.
‘Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity’
I think that I find myself in this situation, partly because of a lifetime of being told to take every opportunity, OR ELSE. I’m seriously worried that if I don’t sign up to something, it’ll put me at a disadvantage or I’ll be missing out on something really cool. I don’t want to pass up an opportunity that may never present itself again. I don’t want to end up regretting a chance I didn’t take.
I know that it’s not just me though. Young people today have a strong culture of FOMO – fear of missing out. This is perpetuated, in part, by the well meaning but misguided quotes and advice we’re constantly given. We’re told that in order to succeed we need to do as much as humanly possible – leading to burning out.
Taking lots of opportunities is important, but it’s equally important to know when to say no – something I’m still working on.
Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book.