So can I skip my homework?

A letter writer has been told to live every day like it’s their last. Does this mean they can stop with the stressful stuff?

Er, not exactly, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Dear Elder, I am a freshman in high school and like anyone else, finding it very stressful. We recently had a student pass away and the take away from it was “live every day like it is your last.” If this quote is true doesn’t that mean doing less of what makes you stressed? If I want to truly enjoy life at its fullest, shouldn’t I not worry about a job or college or the future? Wouldn’t it be best to deal with it as it comes? I love camping, hiking, kayaking and fishing; basically anything outdoors. So shouldn’t I do more of that and less homework that takes up my evenings? Homework takes up kids’ nights and weekends and should be done in school, so why should I stress or worry about that when I could be out exploring new places as if I may die tomorrow? I hope you can see where I am coming from and provide advice to help me either way. Thank you!

Alexandra replies

You raised a very interesting question. The phrase “live every day like it is your last” is attributed to Steve Jobs, who used it in a now quite famous commencement speech at Stanford University. Look it up online — it’s interesting. The concept is pretty much the same as another phrase — “Carpe Diem”, (meaning, as I’m sure you know, “seize the day”) which originated with the ancient philosophers. 

Both of these expressions can be interpreted in different ways by different people, and it seems as if you’ve taken it to mean you should just do more of the things you love doing and not so much of the things that give you stress — e.g. school and homework. That does sound pretty enticing, but if everyone in the world decided to live that way, don’t you think we’d end up with chaos? I doubt many people would choose to live their last day serving in a store or restaurant, working in an office, driving a bus, paying their bills, or doing any of the mundane but necessary things that keep the world turning,

I’m so very sorry that your school had a student pass away. It has a devastating effect when a young person dies, but the chances of it happening to you are very, very remote. It’s far more likely that you and almost all your friends will go on to live full, exciting lives, with careers and families and adult responsibilities and privileges.

However, that does not mean that you can’t have lots fun and enjoyment on the journey along the way.  Instead of living every day like it’s your last, try making your mantra “live every day to the fullest”. Do your very best with the things you have to do (homework — ugh!) but also make sure you have time to spend outdoors, to be kind to people, to challenge yourself a little, and to be able at the end of the day to look back and say that you didn’t waste a moment of it.

Life isn’t about instant gratification, although often we’d like it to be. Even as a senior, I like to learn something new every day, to feel that I’ve maybe helped someone or contributed something to my community and hopefully had some fun doing it! I understand that freshman year is stressful, as is anything new, but it will get easier — and you can look at it as a stepping stone to your future. It helps if you can live in the moment and not stress too much yet about college and careers — you’re quite right that you should deal with these things when the appropriate time comes. That doesn’t mean being irresponsible about planning for your future, but for now focus on taking life a day at a time and living it to the fullest. 

Hope this helps a bit, and I wish you the very, very best.  Please feel free to write EWC again any time.

Letter #: 429411
Category: School

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