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An Open Letter to Stressed Students

Updated: Sep 8, 2019


Dear WHS student body,

Today is going to be an amazing day, and here’s why: Because today all you have to do is just be yourself.

These are the first lines spoken in the hit Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” They seem a little cliche as far as first impressions go, yet after two hours of watching the show’s storyline unfold, I understand why they’re so important. It’s because no matter how many times we’re told to be ourselves, no matter how many times we’re told that no matter what, we’re enough, it’s still impossible to feel like it’s always true. We perceive so many things to be personal failures, most especially the literal, “F for fail” failures that might show up in PowerSchool.

It’s finals season. The time has come for a year’s worth of knowledge to be dumped out onto scantrons for finals, AP exams and SATs--arguably not the most fun way to get ready for summer. Sleep is lost, subject matter is crammed and positivity is drained from our very souls, in some cases. But I urge you to remember that while May is the month of test stress, it is also, far more importantly, Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health is not fake.

Mental health is not a disease.

Mental health is not shameful.

Mental health is absolutely more important than your grades.

Of course, grades shouldn’t be taken lightly, and they are important, but just like you shouldn’t study with a recently severed arm, you shouldn’t study if you haven’t slept in two days. It certainly won’t help you do better on the test. I know that it’s hard because I’ve been there, but we have to acknowledge that there is a point where stress is no longer a healthy motivator but a debilitating danger to your mental and even physical health. Stress takes a toll on students more and more each year, and 2019 is no different. May’s warm weather is accompanied by an onslaught of make-or-break tasks and responsibilities. But I’m going to let you in on a secret: Make-or-break isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.

From the beginning of high school, maybe earlier, it is beat into our heads that grades will matter for pretty much ever. But I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen smart people get a C on a final, a 2 on an AP exam, or (cue the horror movie music) a slightly below average SAT score--and they survived.

That’s right, the world didn’t spontaneously combust. Colleges did not put them on a blacklist. Their GPAs? Barely changed, if not an increase from other classes they did well in. The point is that it’s not the end of the world. You get back up and brush yourself off. But that’s not so easy with mental health. Just like physical health, it takes time to heal. That being said, try your best-- but don’t hurt yourself. If you feel the stress taking over, it’s okay to take a break. It doesn’t mean you’re going to fail. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you know yourself well enough to take care of yourself.

In “Dear Evan Hansen,” there is another line in the music that goes, “If you never get around to doing some remarkable thing, that doesn't mean that you're not worth remembering.”

Everyone is worth a legacy, regardless of their GPA or trophy shelf. Someday, high school finals will be a blur--just a dot on a timeline that is more significant than one stressful week. So don’t waste too much of your precious time and energy on stress, because it’s true that, no matter what, we are enough.

May is not (just) test month.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

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