Dear Gen Z students,
We are all at a moment in time where life is not normal; we have to make adjustments and adapt. Starting a new school year amidst a global pandemic will be tough as everyone struggles to find balance in their life and education. Some schools will be in person with strict social distancing rules in place while other schools have accommodated for partial or full virtual learning. For some of you, education may not even be your main concern;there could be more pressing personal matters at hand. Life right now is filled with anxiety, loneliness, and fear– but it doesn’t have to be that way.
I, too, am a student. I’m a rising college sophomore who has almost all online courses and decided to commute to college, giving up my dorm room. I want to share with you some of my thoughts and advice on different topics you may be concerned about.
The future can be terrifying. It’s the unknown and the “what-ifs” that lead your mind to wander towards millions of possibilities and an equal amount of fears. Since pre-school, we are thrust into a system that instills the mindset of preparing for “something;” whether that be the next test, a final, college, or career. Without knowing what you want to do in life, you have to get the best grades, do hundreds of extracurriculars, and volunteer. That’s all in your mind by middle school. Then in high school, everything kicks up a notch when the SAT and ACT tests are nearby– which inevitably also means college applications. Then what? 12 years of education to get into a good college? Are you even done after that? No. You now have to prepare for your career. And some of you may have figured it out, but there are others who are still developing their dreams. Gen Z is at a stage in life where we are in competition with one another. My high school earth science teacher warned us about this early my freshman year: “Everyone in this classroom, in your grade, is your competition.” It’s tiring having to live your youth trying to upgrade yourself to pass the next level in life while comparing yourself to others. It’s a marathon you don’t realize your running until you first collapse. Then you get up and realize what’s happening around you, you think you’re alone, lagging behind everyone else, so you get up and push yourself until you collapse again and again. You may collapse and never want to get back up again. You may be faced with a wall blocking the path with no alternative route. You may have to slow down and walk because of outside events. In this race of life, it’s okay to stop and breathe. It’s okay to stop running and actually enjoy the scenery. It’s okay to be out of breath while someone else is still running. The focus of this marathon is your happiness. In your scenery lies dreams, goals, relationships, but by looking at other people you lose sight of what’s around you. Take a moment for yourself when you feel overwhelmed with anxiety, low self-esteem, and fear. Like you, everyone else is focused on their path. In the end, this marathon only has one runner: you. It’s your life. The stage you are at and when you are at it will be completely different from someone else.
While you live, mistakes are made. It’s inevitable. There are feelings of regret, shame, envy, anxiety, and doubt. The heavy burden of others’ expectations of you may have forced you to be insecure and doubtful of your abilities. The competitive society we live in where anyone who is abnormal is an outcast. There are people who are willing to step on others to lift themselves up. There are people who use words and violence to harm others. There are people who lack the willingness to listen and understand another person’s story. If you are a victim of your mistakes, forgive yourself but learn from it. If you are a victim of regret or shame, figure out why you feel that way and see if you can do something to change it into something better. If you are envious, turn your source of envy into your own ambition and strive for yourself to become what you envy. If you struggle with anxiety and self-doubt, it’s important to know that you are doing well; it’s okay to take a moment to rest, think, then proceed. In life, it’s better to be empathetic, to lend a helping hand to those in need of support, and listen to respect another. No matter what you do, if you are kind to others, you will live a happier life because you are building an environment around you filled with people who will treat you the same way you treated them.
If you are going through a hard time, I want to wish you good health and moments of happiness to get you through a tough time. Saying, “everything will be okay” can be ignorant and you may not want to hear the same positive yet toxic words over and over. I just wish you remember that it’s okay that you are not feeling the best and there are people who understand you. No matter how bleak the situation may seem, with time you’ll find yourself in a new setting. The only thing that is constant is change. Nothing stays the same forever, so the only movement left after your lowest moment is upward. Find the little things that ease the pain, make you happy, and put a smile on your face. After every fall, tell yourself “it’s okay, next time I’ll do better. I got this. You can do it.” Don’t think you have no dreams or goals because the most important dream everyone has is to be happy. Follow the opportunities that arise and you may be surprised in the end.
A fellow Gen Z who understands.
writer, poet, transcriber
Hi, my name is Kali Jung and I this coming fall I will be a sophomore in college majoring in Health Science on a Pre-Physician Assistant path. I am currently the secretary for the American Chemical Society. I am passionate about equal rights for minorities as well as climate change and mental health care. I wish to educate myself and others about the issues that may not be well known and spread awareness for many fundamental human rights issues.