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Teenage life: its a balancing act

After some serious thought, I have developed a conclusion that may be startling to some: my life -and probably yours, too - would be infinitely easier if the day had oh, say 28 hours instead of 24.

In my sophomore year of high school, I've developed a condition very common to teenagers: I-have-too-many-extracurricular-activities syndrome coupled with why-do-my-teachers-assign-so-much-homework disease.

I'm going, going, gone all day long, and in order not to collapse into a sleep-deprived chaotic mess, I am learning to balance the scholastic aspects of my life with my health necessities. That's the golden word - balance.

For me, balance is going to bed at a reasonable time instead of staying up all night working on homework. For you, balance might be eating breakfast even when you wake up late and might miss the bus. But for all of us, balance means participating in events in moderation.

I will be the first one to admit that this does not come naturally to me. I am still learning how to organize my days so everything gets done. And while it's easy to stand on a soapbox and demand that everyone go to bed at 9 p.m. and eat three square meals, it's significantly more difficult to actually live in such a Stepford environment.

I have wondered many times (usually when I'm supposed to be doing math homework) how exactly I am going to stay healthy and stress free.

Well, I've discovered a little secret they didn't tell us in third grade - you don't always need to give your best effort. It's shocking, I know, but there are areas of life where we need to give 110 percent and others where we can give 80 percent.

We still need to make a good effort - not studying for tests because I'm tired unfortunately doesn't count as 80 percent - but we don't need to drive ourselves into exhaustion striving for perfection in everything.

With a bit of teenaged intelligence, we can figure out which assignments need to be done on the weekend and which can be completed while watching 'Law and Order.' Deep down (or by looking at a syllabus) we can tell which teachers offer extensions on projects and which demand punctuality.

And also, what about a social life? High school is supposedly the 'greatest four years of our life ever omg.' I think we deserve to escape from homework, sports and clubs some of the time, right? So, friends, here is yet another piece to throw into the balance puzzle.

In order to achieve this balance, I've been watching the people in my life that manage incredibly hectic lives. Well, those of them who still appear to be generally happy. And I've picked up a few tips.

First of all, completing monkey work quickly is essential to harmony between leisure and work. (Monkey work, by definition, is tasks like vocab words or sewing ballet shoes.) A cardinal rule is that such mindless tasks must be completed while engaged in another, more worthwhile activity. Like watching television. Or texting. Or Facebook stalking.

Such squeezing small amounts of homework in at unexpected times has given me the freest time so far. Bored in the doctor's waiting room? Get some of that French homework done. I may still be bored, but I will be a productive bored.

It turns out, there are more spare minutes in a day than we think. And all those minutes add up to a Friday night out or a Saturday of shopping. Maybe even both!

So overachievers take note: take a deep breath, slow done and relax. I know I am far happier when I have a proportionate balance of academics, exercise and friends in my life. Try it out. Balance may work for you, too.

Isla McKerrow is a sophomore at Lakeridge High School. She writes a column every month for the Lake Oswego Review. Contact her via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..