A man stands in front of the finish line and refuses to cross.

I refuse to cross the finish line all the time.

Recently, I’ve decided to make a lifestyle change. I’m no longer going to worry about finishing my homework assignments.

Why on earth would I choose to do something like this, to shift my mindset in a way that will almost certainly impact my grades? Well, I’ll get there (trust me), but first off... why should I care about my grades? A grade is a number that we as students have arbitrarily tied our self worth to, that we have been told to value above all else since grade school. We pull all-nighters and skip meals for these grades, put in 120% effort, spend hours and hours working hard and stressing out— and all for what, a number? I refuse to sell my life to a number any longer. My sleep, my diet, and my happiness are all more important than proving to the world that I can get a perfect GPA and ace all my classes. What’s the point in life if you aren’t happy, after all?

This isn't to say that I'm going to stop turning in homework and start failing my classes. I'm still going to do as much work as I need to to learn the material that I'm interested in. But I'm not going to bend over backwards for a number that's slightly higher than the number I'll earn by putting in as much effort as I'm willing to. I'm okay with getting Bs and Cs instead of As if it means that I'm a happier person overall.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re happy sitting in the GDC basement for fourteen hours in a row without leaving, be my guest. But personally, I would rather be hanging out with my friends or watching Netflix in bed than intensely debugging an assignment that’s worth a small percent of my grade and an even smaller percent of my self-worth. I want to spend my time doing the things I love, but more importantly, I want to take the time to take care of myself. And if that means that I turn in a few incomplete assignments and some buggy code now and then, that’s fine. Life is much more enjoyable this way.

What prompted me to make this decision? Last semester, I was very, very unhappy. I couldn’t work on my OS projects without feeling a huge sense of apprehension and anxiety over how I wouldn’t be able to finish to the point that every second spent coding was physically painful. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but if a class is making me physically ill, that’s when it’s time to stop, pull back, and reevaluate my priorities. Chances are, if an assignment is causing me that much stress, I’ll feel so much better when I can consider it done and move on with my life, so that’s my new plan this semester. If I can’t stand to work on an assignment— if it’s making me physically ill or generally unhappy— then I refuse to work on that assignment any longer.

The important thing to me is not getting a perfect grade; it’s understanding the material as best as I can. If I can understand the material without finishing the assignment, and I don't have the energy to finish the assignment, then I'm going to do what's best for me and accept that I can't finish everything all the time. Last week, I turned in an algorithms assignment with two questions blank, and it felt good to finally be free of the self-imposed pressure to do everything at 100% of my energy.

So don’t forget to take care of yourself, and don’t worry if you don’t finish an assignment or two. You’re more important than your grades.

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