OPINION: The crushing weight of expectations


Moving out of Munster, there is a part of me that cannot help but to feel relieved at the change of environment. 

To say that the academic culture of MHS is “tough” is an understatement. If someone had told me five years ago that everyday I would be swamped in homework and anxiously obsessing over grades, I would have dismissed the conversation entirely. This instilled “need to succeed mindset” is all too prevalent among MHS students—unfortunately, many can relate to the lack of sleep, anxiety, excessive worry over grades, and eventually, the decline in mental health due to such an environment.

During my time at MHS, I observed that a great deal of my peers have a certain mentality of thinking, “I have to take X amount of AP and honors classes, I have to join X amount of extracurricular activities and I have to keep all my grades above X percent.” Learning in such a competitive and seemingly high-stakes environment eventually led me to place those same expectations on myself. 

Oftentimes, there were days when I overwhelmed myself by becoming overly preoccupied thinking only of what had to be done, what I had to achieve and how unattainable those goals seemed. The monotonous cycle of school, extracurriculars, homework and a few hours of sleep—all on loop for 180 days—becomes tiring. In regards to the metaphor “running yourself into the ground,” it’s not possible to put in effort if there is none left to give. That fact in and of itself forced me to accept that something needed to change, but I could never bring myself to change anything—whether it be making schedule changes or an action as simple as allowing myself a break. Consequently, my self-esteem worsened and it led me to the conclusion I was not “good enough”—that I was unworthy. As absences due to mental health are not excused, I often found myself frustrated by the fact that students at MHS were being inadvertently discouraged from attending to their mental health at school. Many MHS students base their self-worth off of academic achievement. In reality, we have so much more to offer than the number on our transcripts. However, it is easy to overlook this truth, and when that happens, it can lead to harmful impacts on mental health.

At present, MHS does not permit mental health days to be counted towards excused absences. With the nature of the school’s academic culture, this is one of the central changes I would like to see in the near future. Even with recent progress on mental health at school, such as the Mustang Mental Health Club, there is still more work to be done. Currently, MHS students are able to receive three free counseling sessions through the Bowen Center. Although a positive first step, I hope it will be only the first of an ongoing series of changes in future years at MHS. Despite the fact that I will no longer be at MHS to see the changes I adamantly anticipate, I hope current and future students will be able to benefit from Munster’s expected progress towards addressing the needs of its students.