Free time is dead.

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Free time is dead.

Free time is dead.

When we were in fifth grade, we had half an hour of homework each night, and the rest of the afternoon to do do whatever we wanted. In eighth grade, we had an hour or two of homework, a few extracurriculars and still plenty of free time. And then high school began. And free time died.

For most overachievers, high school is a never-ending cycle of work. Sure, these overachievers have time to go to the movies or drive around with friends, but the homework that they must do is never far from their minds. As high school students, there is always work to be done. Even when overachieving teenagers head out on Friday night for a break, the weekend’s homework looms on the horizon. Free time is not the equivalent of a break from work. It is a break from thinking about work.

Junior year, the crushing amounts of work and the unrealistic expectations are crippling. Overachievers load up on rigorous classes. Juniors are expected to get good grades, stay involved in school, be involved with extracurriculars, have a leadership role, volunteer, study for standardized tests, have a social life and sleep nine hours each night.

Many students meet all these expectations but one: sleep. High school students sacrifice sleep in order to get everything done. Time to do nothing at all or whatever we want is becoming unfamiliar.

Yes, there are still weekends, and breaks and summer, but many kids still think about what needs to be done rather than what they want to get done.

And that’s just sad.