Moan and groan

By Austin Block

Oh my God I have sooo much homework,” students complain. “Not Wednesday break! Nobody wants it!” they whine. “I’m so tired,” they bitterly mumble. Here at school, complaints decorate the halls, cake the buildings, envelop the library, and drift merrily through the quad. Classes, homework, tests, essays, sports and SAT prep are innocent victims of our relentless anger. FML has become the official school acronym. We complain so much that we don’t realize we are complaining anymore.

“Vergil, you have overstayed your welcome. Please just pack up your things and leave. Thanks,” said one student’s Facebook status.

Is all of this complaining a bad thing? Venting does have a cathartic element to it, but at what point does healthy stress relief turn into a habit of thinking negatively and appreciating little? Disclaimer: I’m not above complaining. I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Complaining is also a very handy way to fill an awkward silence, solicit sympathy, start up a conversation, get attention or prompt somebody to make you feel better by explaining his/her situation, which is inevitably far worse than yours. It’s cool to be discontent. But is this habit something that we want to take with us to college?

Naturally, in the competitive atmosphere of Harvard-Westlake, grumbling turns into a game of one-upmanship. We’re perversely proud to have more work than everyone else. “Why do I have three tests tomorrow?” I might despairingly ask. “Oh yeah,” another could reply, “well I have a test or quiz in every class plus an English essay due plus a history project outline plus I have late soccer practice!” Do I feel better now? In a sadistic your-life-sucks-more-than-mine way, sort of.

So what can we do about it? Obviously, life is distinctly less fun when we focus on all its worst aspects. There is no such thing as a perfect life, week, or even day, so we’re going to have to deal with imperfection. The more we do so, the happier we will probably be.

At the risk of sounding like I might have some idea of what I’m talking about, here is a suggestion that I think I’ll try myself: After complaining about something, take a moment and ask yourself “Did that make me feel better?” “Did that make anyone else feel bad?” If your first answer is no or your second answer is yes, try your best to eliminate those complaints from your repertoire.

I’m not trying to preach appreciation of all of the great things we have (even though we really should appreciate them more often). I’m not trying to go on a fruitless complaint crusade and convince everyone to be happy little angels. A bit of verbal release is good once in a while. All I’m trying to do is raise some awareness and food for thought. Ugh, now I have to go do homework.