The negative side to Luther’s culture of high achievement

Gillian Klein, Sports Editor

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She tells me she got four hours of sleep after completing eight hours of homework. He’s non-stop busy with soccer, band, and class from 12 in the afternoon to eight at night. And all around me there is constant movement and growth at an accelerated speed. We cultivate a culture here at Luther that embodies high achievement, but scarcely do we settle for just meeting our goals. I walk around campus observing the various interactions we have with one another and, all around me, there is consistent exhaustion on the face of every individual.

I am part of this culture in which we barter our happiness and health in the hopes of individualizing ourselves. Can we not see the errors of our ways? I am worn thin from thinking I have more than 100% of myself to give, that somehow I can do more without refraining from something else. The value we place on our résumés and list of achievements is not the culmination of what we can do or even who we are. It is a much smaller piece of what we should be defining ourselves.

Why must I compete against my peers in who has slept less or completed more homework? And where does the word “no” come into this all? No is hard and saying no feels defeating. I said no to music this year because I was teetering on the edge of insanity continuing my involvement in every activity I desired to do. But what this culture is teaching us is that we can do EVERYTHING and we should be capable of doing EVERYTHING WELL. What saying no this year has taught me is that we must make choices about where our priorities lie.

“The value we place on our résumés and list of achievements is not the culmination of what we can do or even who we are. It is a much smaller piece of what we should be defining ourselves.”

– Gillian Klein (‘20)

There is no guarantee in life that we can have it all and, yes, there will be the few who do have it all. If that’s not you, it’s not me either. So how do we make peace with this dilemma? Well, it MUST start with the culture we create. As much as I would like to point fingers at the institution and remove myself from contributing to the problem, that would be rather ignorant of me. It would be rather ignorant of us all.

We are tired from the kind of tired that is not a result of losing sleep so much as it is a result of losing ourselves. I want to hear the words “no, I don’t have the time” or “thanks for the offer, but I have committed to enough already.” These are not words of defeat; rather, they are words of self-acknowledgment of one’s limits and acceptance of those limits.

We’re told when we’re young to dream big and shoot for the stars, but somewhere along the way we have misinterpreted these words to mean always dream BIGGER and shoot for ALL the stars.

On campus, the gates to success are open and we race to the bottom, not the top. We drain ourselves completely only for the sake of vocalizing that yes, we could do it all and bare NOTHING in the end. If happiness is being empty, then label me sad, because there must be a percent of me left to just be. To just be, I ask you all, to conceptualize and live in that. Just be.

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