Don’t let the education system fool you; you are not a paper doll


I used to love to read. 

I used to write just for the fun of it. 

I used to look forward to jumping into the pool to swim countless laps. 

I used to love to do a lot of things. 

Over the past four years, I’ve lost myself. Ever since the airy September day when I entered the seemingly gigantic doors of FHC as a small and timid freshman, I began to lose track of what really mattered to me. More than ever before, teachers began to push the idea of making yourself look good on paper as if it was the only thing that mattered now. 

Almost immediately, I found myself signing up for the hardest classes possible just because I could. You could find me in the weight room or in the pool during the darkest hours of the morning just to return to them instantly following the clash of the 2:45 dismissal bell. 

As time went on, I grew tired. The days when reading was a comfort to me, a quiet place of privacy and relaxation, faded away. The pale blue hues of a swimming pool turned into a wild tangle of pain, exhaustion, and distaste. Writing for pleasure took a backseat to the mountains of formulaic, five-paragraph essays that never seemed to cease. 

The cavernous ideas that the education system pumps into us wears holes in our souls.

In my efforts to create a perfect persona “on paper,” I forgot what it was like to be a fully-fleshed and carved-out person. 

Growing up means having to relearn. 

Growing up means making a conscious decision to make time for what matters to you. Not what matters to your paper self, but to your real self. This process is slow. The cavernous ideas that the education system pumps into us wears holes in our souls. Relearning, I found, is hard work. It’s hard not to feel weak or hopeless or small when a monotonous string of voices is constantly spilling words into your head.

“Is this benefiting your future self?” “Will colleges want you because of this?” “What are you doing to differentiate yourself from others?” “Are you doing enough?” 

Are you doing enough? 

The answer to that question seems simple in theory, but when you are busy filling your time and your mind with activities that look good on paper, it can be hard to take a step back. The education system is really good at convincing us, impressionable young adults, that we’re only as good as we look on paper. Growing up means challenging this notion. Growing up means realizing that we are not paper dolls, so we need to stop trying to be. 

As we learn to make more time for the things we love and less time for the things that we love to put on paper, we become whole. From paper dolls to life-size people, we expand further than the dollhouse that is our transcripts, our grades, and our GPAs.  

Growing up means relearning how to do the things we once loved. Growing up means being able to decide that not everything is about how you look on paper. Growing up means choosing to do what makes you happy before doing what people say that you should.