Blinded by the future

By Nika Madyoon

Competition: a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage. You can find it anywhere on campus. It’s what helps us decide which classes we take. It’s that voice in our heads saying we have to be the best at something.

Being a Harvard-Westlake student is a lot about competition, and in a lot of good ways. But sometimes I want to look competition in the face and tell it to get lost just this once.

I want to ask competition why it has to show up to every class period, sports practice, and extracurricular activity. We can only ignore its presence for so long.

Harvard-Westlake is the place to be. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. We go to one of the best college prep schools in the country; it’s no surprise that competition is such a fundamental concept here. After all, the real world which we are thrust into after graduation is the epitome of competition. Dog-eat-dog, every man for himself. Isn’t all of the stress we experience preparing us for what is just around the corner?

Yes would be my answer. But there is such a thing as too much preparation. Is what we are doing too much? Is this too much competition?

The answer is less clear this time. I’m sure teachers and coaches and deans all want the best for us—they do what they can to train us for the life that lies ahead. And while that is certainly reassuring, is it not also a sign that competition might be a little excessive?

When we go to a school that offers us everything there is and asks us to choose what we want, it’s hard to take advantage of it all. What will make us appealing on that dreaded college application in a few years or months seems to decide a lot of things for students. And that’s to be expected in high school, especially at our high school. But I find it quite sad that we are forced to choose between several interests that we may have.

Sure, we’re given everything to choose from, but once junior year begins it’s often too late to try that new activity you were always curious about. It becomes so much about choosing your “thing” that we can get discouraged and forget that high school is about making some of the greatest memories of our lives.

But what is the finish line? Getting into our college or university of choice, maybe. Finally establishing a career, for some. Being recognized for outstanding athletic achievement or theater performance. I’ve seen people so blinded by reaching what’s ahead that they ignore everything around them.

But as excellently and thoroughly as we are prepared for the real world here, these students are missing out on a lot of Harvard-Westlake’s unique qualities. After all, simply getting straight A’s or being team captain isn’t going to get us through life. We’re meant to be prepared for all aspects of our future: the friendships each of us will maintain and the new relationships we will soon form, the contributions we will make to society and possibly humanity. Compassion and honesty and a sense of unity has faded to the background for some when it should really be just as important as our SAT score.

Remembering that we’re not all fighting tooth and nail and taking a step back to enjoy life and the smallest every-day experiences we have here might help to make that B on a test seem a lot less like the end of the world as we know it. I’d say it’s worth a try.