Students should reconsider priorities as they get busier


Daniel Tian

Last year, I was a virtual learning student. I would start my days at noon, sluggishly ignoring the sunlight that insisted into my room, even through the heavy-duty window curtains. I would eat “breakfast” at around 2 p.m., usually a large bowl of Shin ramen with poached eggs as runny as I could make them. I would have around nine hours of my own time, free to do whatever I liked: I practiced piano, played video games, biked with friends, worked on Science Olympiad, etc. 

Since all my classes were autonomous, my school day would start at around 11 p.m. Generally, I took about two hours to finish a day’s schoolwork, with first priority to assignments due at midnight. Sleep would come at around 2 a.m. on normal nights, even later if I had found an interesting book or manga to read before bed. Ironically enough, this backward routine worked. I could keep up with my classes, and I felt productive working on my own passions and projects. I felt like I could do what I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could live life at my own pace, taking any extra time that I needed.

When this school year started, I was thrust into junior year, believed to be the busiest year of high school.  The rigid, unchangeable 9:05 to 4:05 school day closed down on me, stealing away any free time I had before. I was ripped from the tranquil stream of virtual learning and forced to swim in a speeding river of in-person school.

It’s safe to say that the transition was jarring. I would get home at 5 p.m, and other activities filled my schedule past 7 P.M. nearly every day of the week, whether it was orchestra rehearsal, SAT prep, or church. Essentially, I went from nine hours of free time to about three. Feeling tired and burnt out, I was not doing great, and I knew I needed a change.

After a long conversation with a friend, I decided to re-evaluate my priorities. I asked myself, what do I really enjoy doing? In the long run, what would I regret about high school? With these questions answered, I sorted a list of how I spent my hours; it was eye-opening. I realized I had spent hours and hours on things I didn’t really care about, on goals that weren’t made by me to begin with. I began to prioritize working out, talking with friends and getting enough sleep. And what an enormous difference that made.

Ultimately, losing 7 hours of my day taught me to value my time. When you have 22 hours to yourself for a full year, you don’t have to think about priorities: there’s enough time for everything! As we all settle into a new, full-time school schedule, whether it’s coming from hybrid or coming from virtual learning, we’re all losing a lot of time. In moments like these, it becomes vital to establish priorities. I encourage you all to really consider for yourself: What do I want to spend my time on? What do I need to spend my time on?

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Daniel Tian at [email protected] To read more works by Daniel, click here.