Following this winter solstice: Take time to find your personal solace

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Following this winter solstice: Take time to find your personal solace

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If an interviewer were to ask you what you do for fun or what makes you happy, would you be able to answer that without citing anything related to school or sports?  We as a school focus so much of our energy on creating a student body that is appealing to a set of college admissions officers, in regards to building upon both academics and extracurriculars.  

Yet many of the interests we pursue are those that are attractive at face value for the place they could have on your resume, not for the purpose of our own enjoyment.  

A recent poll by The Schreiber Times found that a staggering 57.9 percent of Schreiber students feel as though they don’t pursue certain interests because it wouldn’t be useful on a college application.  This means that more than a majority of our student body are restricting themselves from doing what they truly enjoy or are interested in due to concerns about these activities’ relevance on their applications.  

“Too many people decide to pursue activities that would look good on their college application as opposed to activities they would enjoy participating in,” said junior Peter Epp.  

There is an issue even larger than that of simply pursuing a hobby, and that is the fact that our livelihoods seldom leave time for curiosity.  Considering the little time we spend on our passions, we spend even less time exploring new hobbies outside of what we have previously been introduced to.  

This is the real problem because how are we supposed to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives when we haven’t been given adequate time to explore all the options?  If someone is destined to be the greatest painter of the 21st century but they spend the entirety of their afternoons studying Common Core, that would be a tragic waste of talent.  The only true way to find our path is to be given time for trial and error, which must start at a young age.

So, why aren’t we putting more effort into pursuing passions outside of school?  What is truly stopping students from following different interest? What are we doing to keep ourselves genuinely happy and take time out of our busy, school-driven lives?  The results from the poll also demonstrated that students are unable to do what they are genuinely interested in because of conflicts concerning issues like incompatibility with the weather and monetary limitations.  

In regards to actually fixing this issue for students, though, very little is done.  And, as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, many people find themselves having an even harder time staying enthusiastic during the winter.  

For a lot of high school students, the winter season turns into a monotonous grind that only ceases for around a week during the holiday season when they are finally on winter break.  With the end of the school year nowhere in sight, there seems to be little solstice during the frigid season.

“As a high school student, I have no time to do anything outside of school,” said an anonymous Schreiber student.  “I constantly go from school to sports to home.”

This is not an uncommon reality for Schreiber students.  Rather, with 83.8 percent of Schreiber students claiming they aren’t able to pursue certain hobbies simply because they don’t have enough time to, this concern is one that is highly relevant to the overwhelming majority of our student body.  

Furthermore, there is no question that each new generation of teenagers faces an increased level of stress and pressure to reach a higher caliber of excellence.  According to a 2018 Digg article, the admissions rates for top-ranked universities have continued to shrink over the last 12 years, meaning that today’s high-school seniors are almost 40 percent more stressed out about getting into college.  This statistic in itself is appalling, it does not even begin to take into account the different stressors which can adversely impact the difficulty with which a high schooler navigates their high school career. With an array of foreboding facts and figures to look forward to as senior year looms in the future, it is no wonder that almost all students acknowledge that they are overloading their schedules with little prioritization towards their mental health and downtime for other interests.

If there is one takeaway to be had from this article, it is not that The Schreiber Times wants Schreiber students to adhere to the following list of hobbies in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded individual.  Instead, it is our intention to encourage our student body to take into consideration these suggestions and get inspired to make some of them a reality. After all, your youth is for exploring who you are, and this cannot be done if you are channelling the entirety of your energy towards the same schoolwork and extracurriculars you have been doing in favor of other, seemingly less important interests.

One hobby that is both useful and meditative is knitting.  While not many young people choose to pursue this interest, it is a great way to cultivate fine motor skills while simultaneously crafting your own useful articles of clothing to wear such as scarves and hats or, if you get enough practice, sweaters and blankets.  

Things like knitting needles are pretty much a one time purchase, which means that with one good investment, you have half the tools to create anything you want.  From there, all you need is some yarn. While this can be expensive, there are certainly a large number of cheap options for a beginner.

The Knitting Place, on Main Street near Finn Mccools, is the local spot to stop for any materials and the staff are always more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.  They also have a website and podcast on Youtube where you can find more information.

Speaking of podcasts, they are another great option for educating and entertaining yourself.  With topics ranging from current events to short stories, to history or science, there is a podcast for everybody.  

Many popular listens are produced by National Public Radio, like Planet Money or Serial, focusing on financial news and investigative journalism respectively.  

For those who are interested in history, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is a very popular and wide reaching podcast which covers a diverse range of obscure and interesting historical anecdotes.  

Listening to these can make any activity, from working out, to walking your dog, far more exciting.  

Another great skill that you can easily hone to produce amazing results is baking.  With just a little bit of kitchen equipment, such as measuring cups, mixing bowls, and baking tins — and just a few ingredients, including flour, sugar, and butter, and a good recipe — you can make a wide variety of delicious desserts.  

From fresh chocolate chip cookies to a seasonal apple pie, there is not much you can do to mess up as long as you follow recipes closely and enjoy fantastic food.  

Inspiration can be found all over the place.  Online, websites such as allrecipes.com or bonappetit.com provide delicious options.  Additionally, the public library has a large selection of cookbooks with a huge amount of recipes to look through.  

A quick and easy activity is learning to play the ukulele.  With just four strings, this is a fairly simple instrument to learn.  Moreover, with the help of various Youtube tutorials, you can learn simple songs and notes in a matter of hours.  

This instrument is also quite cheap, and you can find one on Main Street at Wright Music.  The ukulele is not only a great way to pass time, but can also be used as a stepping stone towards learning to play a six string guitar.  

On the topic of music, simply listening to it is a great way to spend a snowy winter afternoon.  Listening through albums while watching the snowfall can be an incredible experience, especially those that tell stories.  

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd and Blow by Donny Mccaslin are two excellent concept albums which with their experimental sounds will prod your mind into a new mode of musical thinking.                                                                            

Whether it be learning an instrument or listening to a new album, music as a whole can be an extremely important part of maintaining a healthy mind.  On the personal level, music has always been an incomparable way for people to express their emotions. Playing a song or listening to a song, can bring someone to tears, or bring an irresistible smile from ear to ear.  

The importance of this form of expression cannot be ignored, for it was created solely to be an effective medium for people to understand their emotions.  In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary defines music as being “that one of the fine arts which is concerned with the combination of sounds with a view to beauty of form and the expression of emotion.”  

Not only does music impact people on a personal level, but it also brings people together on a larger scale.  Songs are made by artists, but they are made for the public to enjoy. In these chaotic times of exams, applications and essays, it may be hard to find time for socializing.  But when using music, you can find an instantaneous connection with anyone who shares your interests. These connections are important because they bring our heads out of our screens and provide sentimental face-to-face interactions.  All of which contributes to the cultivation of better people skills and creation of a more stable mental health.

On both a personal and grander scale, music can truly impact the teenage brain in immeasurable ways.  Other forms of expression, such as writing poems or stories, are just as influential.

If you need some inspiration for writing, check out online writing prompts from web pages like Reddit’s r/writingprompts.  

Also, the New York Times provides a list of 500 controversial topics on their website.  Pick one that interests you and research the topic, share it with a friend, write about it.  For all you know, you may find something that interests you to the point of masking a career decision out of it.  

Prompts on sites like these are often quite thought-provoking and allow for guided creative writing.  Reading and writing poems can also be a great mental work out.

Poems can be found both in books, and on various web pages around the internet.  This a great way to relax while still escaping the screens that surround us every day through escaping into a riveting piece of literature.  

While there is plenty to do inside this winter, there are even more activities to be done outside.  Nothing exemplifies a good time quite like fresh air with your friends during a beautiful snow fall.  

Taking walks are another great way to spend your time.  Whether you’re going for a leisurely stroll or hardcore hiking, getting some aerobic exercise in the brisk air is both invigorating and refreshing.

Port Washington, and the surrounding areas, have a wide variety of lovely locations in which you could spend hours marvelling at the beauty of nature. Hiking through the Sands Point Preserve, spending time at any of the town beaches, or enjoying the snow in any of the local parks, such as Pine Street Park, are great outdoor options.

If you are willing to go a bit further, Kings Point Park in Great Neck has a plethora of beautiful trails to explore.  This may be the cheapest hobby that anyone can take up, given that the only resource you need is an hour of your time.

Hiking will give you the incomparable freedom of metime.  There is no better way to understand how to fix an internal problem than putting down the textbooks and going for a hike.  While hiking, pick a spot and take a seat; try and notice five new things about your surroundings. Allow your mind to wander.

This is an especially helpful tactic to use when you feel overwhelmed by the chaos of school.  Going outside and calming yourself down this way will allow you to focus when you decide to return to your house and tackle whatever it was that created this stress.  

Schreiber students, do not underestimate the importance of taking some time for yourself.  More importantly, do not be disappointed in yourself when you find that you need some time for mental health.  This is an issue that has proven to impact a large majority of Schreiber students.

So, take some time for yourself this winter.  Explore new interests and allow yourself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  In a time of year where we are bombarded with a workload that seems immeasurable; in a day and age where we are described in terms of a GPA and a SAT score; allow yourself to take some much needed time to focus on yourself.  

This is a life skill that is sure to impact your mental health throughout college and into your adult life.  And by working upon this skill now, at a young age, it will prove to be more influential in your life than you could possibly imagine.  

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