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The Unofficial Hopkins Stress Olympics

Caroline Vanderlee '17
Hopkins School is a very demanding environment. With all the coursework, sports practice, and extracurriculars, stress can run high. Going to bed past midnight is common practice for some of the student body and nervous breakdowns happen often enough that some people regard them as normal. There is no doubt that students are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform, and to perform well.
But recently I have come to notice an odd pattern among most of the students. In times of stress, rather than providing help and support to one another, they engage in a competition over which one of them is the most anxious. Phrases such as “I only got four hours of sleep last night!” are spoken with pride rather than regret. Students who have two tests and an essay due the next day boast of how stressed they are for the hellish task ahead, rather than emailing their teachers for an extension in order to alleviate the workload. For them, having so much anxiety about school is a badge of honor.

So, in the spirit of competition, I suggest we turn this unofficial school-wide contest into a formal one. The Hopkins Stress Olympics will determine who is, in fact, the most stressed student of all. Although participation will be optional, I predict a rather large turnout; it seems to me that people take almost every opportunity to brag about their lack of sleep, or gloat that they have even more work to do than their friends.

The award for Least Amount of Sleep may be tricky to determine. Does a student who pulled an all-nighter after getting six hours of sleep the night before beat out a student who only slept for three hours both nights? Perhaps a students who boasts a record of never getting more than four hours of sleep a night may win for overall exhaustion.

Awards cannot be given out simply for latest bedtime, as some students go to bed at a reasonable hour but wake up at 3:00 in the morning to work. Further complications arise when taking into account that there is no way to prove these claims.

The prize for Worst Workload seems impossible to divvy out. Is it most overall workload that must be taken into consideration? Or is it one day—one test-filled, essay-filled, stress-filled day—that will determine the winner? Or is it both? Furthermore, the sheer magnitude of homework is not the only factor; the difficulty of the work, itself, must also be taken into account. Difficulty level varies from assignment to assignment, and some students may struggle more than others on the same homework.

As for the highly coveted prize of Most Stressed, a number of factors must be taken into consideration.

In addition to loss of sleep, workload, and relative difficulty level, there are also outside factors: the amount of pressure added by the student’s parents, the number of extracurriculars the student is involved in, and the amount of time lost due to sports practice. In the interest of fairness, it may be best to create a separate category for seniors in the midst of the college application process.

As with most competitions, prizes are in order. Medals, of course, will be awarded to the winning students, but to me it seems that their goal in this competition is to earn the full and undivided attention of their friends. Someone worried over a test she has after lunch is not as worried as her friend who has two tests back-to-back for the next two periods; therefore, the friend must take priority for sympathy and the student’s own stress must be pushed aside. It is unfathomable for more than one student to be stressed at one time. The expression “all in the same boat” is, by unspoken rule, a taboo.

The Hopkins Stress Olympics, therefore, determines which students have the exclusive right to the sympathy of their friends and which students do not. After all, if one student is stressed, then obviously his or her friends are not allowed to be stressed themselves.
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