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Students feel pressure to enjoy their vacations

While many students plan to go on vacation over winter break, senior Sadie Penix said she is staying home. 

“I actually prefer to stay home especially over Christmas and New Years because I just like to be home in the comfort of my home and hang out with my friends,” Penix said. “Especially since (winter) break is only two and a half weeks, it’s a lot more relaxing to just spend that time at home rather than traveling.”

Penix is not alone. According to a new survey conducted by ClubWyndham, two in three Americans feel too much pressure to enjoy their vacation. 62% of those surveyed said they worry about not being able to experience the best of the destination.

Penix said she also feels this pressure to do something memorable on vacation.

She said, “I always want to have experiences that I’m going to remember when I’m older. Even if it’s just like making hot chocolate and laying in my bed, like, that’s memorable, that’s something to do that I’ll reflect on and enjoy. When I was younger, it was definitely more about doing it with other people and hanging out with my friends all the time and now, it’s shifted to ‘I want to do something memorable, (but) it doesn’t really matter with who.’”

Counselor Emily Clark said social media may play a role in fueling the pressure to do something memorable over vacation.

Students may feel stressed or pressured to have a fun or exciting break like ‘all’ the people on their social media accounts are having. I think students may feel like if they don’t post or post something exciting they are not having a good break,” Clark said via email. 

Penix said she agreed with Clark but said she found a way to cope.

Archit Kalra

I definitely used to think (I needed an Instagram-worthy vacation), but I’d say in the past year, just personally, I’ve stopped caring about Instagram and any of my social media,” she said. “I’ve realized, especially now that I’m older, that it really doesn’t matter, and so (many) people post about such a small part of their life and it’s really not representative, so I don’t really mind anymore.”

However, junior Pragathi Arunkumar said she still feels a bit of “fear of missing out” even when she goes somewhere for vacation. She said seeing her other friends hangout while she is on vacation has also prevented her from fully enjoying her vacation. 

She said, “I feel like you’re missing out either way no matter where you are. If you go on vacation, then you feel like you’re missing out. Like, if you see your friends hanging out, you’re like, ‘Oh, I wish I was home’ but when you’re home you wish you were not at home.”

Penix said this feeling of missing out has lessened as she has gotten older, and she said she has credited it to maturity.

Juniors Abhi Perumalla and Pragathi Arunkumar discusses their vacation plans for the upcoming 2022 winter break. Both Perumalla and Arunkumar agreed that they feel pressure to do academic work over winter break. (Lorna Ding)

Penix said, “I would get really sad if I saw (my friends) posting about fun stuff they were doing and I wasn’t there…Then, I’d feel sad and I’d feel pressured that I have to show what I’m doing (on social media) even though I’m not really doing anything.

“I honestly just think maturity and time (made me less sad about missing out),” she added, “because honestly at this point of my life, I’m very content (with my life), so I don’t feel the need to show off what I’m doing and show people how great my life is.”

But not everyone feels the same. Junior Abhi Perumalla said he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out at all.

“I know if I miss something it’s ok since I’ll just go next time. I don’t feel bad about missing it because I’m usually doing something else that’s also important to me so I don’t really feel like I’m missing out,” he said. 

Instead, Perumalla said he feels more pressure to do academic-related work on vacation.

Perumalla said, “This coming winter break is going to be stressful because of SAT and ACT stuff going on, but other than that I don’t think it’s going to be that stressful in comparison to Thanksgiving break. Like over (Thanksgiving break), I had to skip school so I brought workbooks and textbooks to read over and study over.”

Arunkumar said junior year is especially an important time to study, which adds to the stress over winter break.

Junior Pragathi Arunkumar studies in her room on Dec 16, 2022. Arunkumar said “This year I’m going on vacation, but it’s a bit stressful because I have so much schoolwork to do.” (Zoe Tu)

“Last year and the year before, I went into winter break having no responsibilities, but this winter break I have zero time. I’m just going to constantly be worrying about one thing or another and I still don’t think I have enough time,” Arunkumar said. “There’s just a bunch of schoolwork for next semester that I need to prepare for in advance.”

In contrast, Clark said she hopes students can take a break from academics over winter break.

I feel like students feel like they cannot make mistakes or fail, but in all reality, that is life,” she said. “I hope students understand the importance of balance in life so they are able to have relief from so much academic pressure. I think it is important for our minds, bodies and souls to take a break and recoup.”

Ultimately, Penix said she hopes people realize they can spend their winter break in a way they want without caring about what other people are doing.

“Everyone has different lives and different circumstances. Your life is never going to be the exact same as somebody else and really just think about what you want for yourself rather than what you want others to want for you,” Penix said. “What matters is what you want, not what other people want for you so just keep that in mind.”

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