Not So “Free” Time

For some, time free of commitments is as stressful as a busy schedule.


Julia Poppa

The infinite possibilities of how to spend free time, while initially refreshing, reveals an underlying stress.

Alyssa Bruce, Staff Writer

As a typical high school student, my day-to-day routine consists of school, followed by an event like work or a club meeting, and then about three consecutive hours of homework. As one can imagine, I spend those hours longing for free time, whether it means getting my other tasks done or spending time with friends.

Ironically, on the rare occurrences, I have an empty schedule after school, I am not hit with relief but rather a new kind of stress.

I find myself stressing over which activity is the “right” way to spend the day. With no restrictions, there are infinite possibilities, yet I usually end up choosing between getting ahead for my future and education or relaxing with friends.

When presented with an open schedule (a day when I am not working and have already completed all of my homework), the choice of what to do pounds in my head. Weekends are especially confusing.

Usually, I attempt to put my education first. On those nights, as I click through the numerous Snapchat stories and Instagram posts consisting of my peers going on late night adventures, whether it be midnight stops at Sheetz or simply just being with each other, I can’t help but feel like I am missing out on a memorable teenage life.

Because I am rarely free from education commitments, I find myself unsure of how to utilize free time. Should it be spent making memories or advancing my future goals?”

Memories in the making are thrown at me, while I am still hunched over at my desk, attempting to perfect a research paper at 10:30 on a Saturday night. I had been invited to go out, yet I chose to remain behind, because I know I should put the future over the present. After all, this sacrifice of time will set me up for a better career, right?

This is what I tell myself, but in the back of my head I can’t help but wonder if that mindset is wrong.

Yet my thoughts sometimes fall on the other side of the spectrum. Some nights, I find myself at the closest Target, messing around with friends at 9:00 on a Wednesday night. I am fully aware that I have a test in history the next morning on material I have barely looked at.

However, I push those thoughts aside, because I tell myself that this is what being young should consist of: making the most of the present and not stressing over the future.

This is what my life entails. It is a never-ending pendulum, because I always feel the need to go from one extreme to the other, in order to make up for my previous habits of how I spend a free day. I am aware that there has to be a balance between the two, but I struggle to find it.

Adults and school have always drilled into my brain that I should study hard and focus on work, because it will pay off in the future. I should put homework over experience, because it is homework and studying that will benefit me.

The media, on the other hand, displays kids my age simply making the best of the present. Whether it be through social media or movies, the colossal amount of time it takes to complete schoolwork and prepare for college is rarely depicted.  Instead, parties are the focus. 

These paradoxes add to my confusion.

Students often complain of not having enough free time to be a teenager, and I completely agree. Despite this wish, the very thing I yearn for sometimes leaves me feeling more stressed. Perhaps the central reason for the dilemma is that high schoolers today aren’t given enough time outside of school.

Because I am rarely free from education commitments, I find myself unsure of how to utilize free time. Should it be spent making memories or advancing my future goals?

This year, I have resolved to find the balance between the two by anchoring the pendulum directly down the center. I am attempting to not only prioritize my education but also ensure that there is time for both myself and for my friends.

Despite how I am conditioned to think, I do not want my free time to go away — but rather the stress that accompanies it to.