Sunday, November 02, 2008
Time for a Tune Up
This is Mr. Weber's address to the student body of JPII on Monday, November 2, 2008.
Tomorrow will mark our 60th day on roll, which means we're exactly 1/3 of the way through the year.
By now, you freshman know what JPII requires of you. Many of you sophomores are beginning to get your driver’s license—and if not you, a friend—opening up a whole new world without having to rely on parents to take you places. Juniors, you are knee deep in our academic program. With ACT tests to take in the spring and many of you beginning to receive advertisements from colleges, the prospect of finishing high school and making big decisions about colleges suddenly doesn’t feel like such a far off thing. Seniors, many of you are feeling torn, wanting to enjoy these last days of high school with all your friends, yet pressed to now apply to colleges and make important decisions about your future.
For those of you who drive, you know that one of the things you have to do is get your car tuned up frequently. Does it need an oil change? Are the spark-plugs still firing at the right rate? Are the tires wearing correctly? Does the steering need adjustment? Of course, we could pretend these things don’t matter. A foolish friend of mine growing up told me proudly that he NEVER checked under the hood of his car. Within 8 months of that pronouncement, he had burned out his engine because he had no engine oil. Had he spent 15 minutes and 25 bucks at any Jiffy Lube, he’d still have had a car, but instead, he was grounded.
I’d like to suggest that 1/3 of the way through this year, it’s a good time to do a kind of personal “tune-up” to and make the necessary tweaks to reach peak operating condition. That begins with an honest self-assessment of your life. I have in mind four questions:
1) Are you getting enough sleep? Probably not. Experts say you should be getting a minimum of 8 hours/night and preferably 10. To get 8 hours, assuming you wake up somewhere around 6 a.m. for school, you’d have to be asleep by 10 p.m. each night to get 8 and by 8 p.m. to get 10. I suspect that’s not happening. A national survey found that 28% of teens fall sound asleep in class at least once/week (surely not at JPII, though).
Though we like to pretend we can operate with significantly less sleep—the truth is we’re less quick witted, less creative and probably less friendly. Take naps. Use the weekends to do some catching up. Get to bed early a couple times/week. Amazing how much better you feel at 6 a.m. when you went to bed at 10. You’ll notice it right away. Give your body a break.
2) Are you getting enougb exercise? According to the American Council on Exercise, it’s likely that 60% of you are not—that’s the national average. Experts recommend 45-60 minutes a day. It could be a run, a walk, a pick-up game. Whatever you love doing that makes it likely that you’ll keep doing it is what you should aim for. Aside from the obvious benefits of exercise: that it burns calories, keeps you looking good—I’d suggest that exercise is important at a school like JPII because it relieves stress.
3) Are you spending enough time studying? I once taught a fairly smart kid who’s life goal in high school was to do as little work as possible to make a C. He made a B in my class one quarter and was mad at himself for miscalculating and working too hard!
Now some of you may have minimalism down to a science—the least I can do to keep my grades in the OK range—but is that your life’s goal? Do you want the epitaph on your tombstone to say: “ He did just enough to get by?” Sometimes, we delude ourselves into thinking “Well, I’ll work harder once I get to college”. But the truth is, we are creatures of habit, and the habits we set for ourselves now become defining traits later.
Give yourself a chance to excel. Challenge yourself. You’ve probably heard the experts’ rule of thumb—they recommend ten minutes per grade level, so that 9th graders are doing 90 minutes/night, 10th graders 100, etc. At a place like JPII, if you’re not averaging somewhere around 2 hours of homework each night, you’re probably selling yourself short.
4) Are you spending enough time praying? We are not simply physical creatures. The problem is, in American culture today, we cram as much noise and as much busy-ness into our days as possible. When we’re alone in our cars, what is the first thing we do? Turn on the radio or call a friend on the cell phone. We are carrying around burdens and hurts, and our faith tells us we have a God who loves us and wants to lift these burdens from us, but we’re too busy to even give them to him. Look, I recommend 15 minutes of simply talking to God each day, reading a scripture verse, reflecting on it. If you know yourself and that seems unlikely, use the time in the car between school and home to tell God what’s worrying you and ask him for your help, thank God for the people who have brought joy to your life that day, and finish it with a few Our Fathers or Hail Mary’s. I think you’ll find that doing this will bring you a greater sense of centeredness and peace.
One final comment: People my age are apt to tell you “These teenage years are the best years of your life—you better enjoy them.” I remember when someone told me that when I was a teenager, I thought to myself “If these are the best years, then my life is really going to be terrible”. It’s a lie. These are some of the hardest years of your life. It gets better—way better. But take care of yourself in the meantime. Sleep more. Exercise more. Study hard. Pray. You’ll not only get through these tough years, you’ll feel proud of yourself along the way.