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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

Being an academic burnout is funny. It’s comedic, almost ironic, in a sense that you put so much time and energy into climbing the ladder and once you get to the top you just hate the view. 

If you are an academic burnout like myself, then you spent your entire life trying to be the best. You studied hard, took the challenging classes, gave 100% when everyone else was sailing by on 75%, but what did it all amount to? Throughout high school, I kept telling myself if I aced this AP, if I applied for that internship, it would get me this much closer to the college of my dreams, but at the end of the day, I realized that I had spent my entire life being dictated by my academics. Everyone had expected my dream school to be the one with the best education, the best program. Yes, that is predominantly what college is for–to study, to learn–but I realized that I wanted some place where I could learn but also where I could experience. I made the decision that I would no longer be held captive solely by my academics. The grade books would rule me no further. 

An academic burnout is someone who continually strives for the top, pouring everything into their studies and risking life and limb for that A. However, it gets to a point where all that effort just isn’t sustainable. You have no motivation. The learning that you once loved is a burden. The classroom is a cage. I have experienced burnout, in high school and in college. I am a fairly competitive person so I wanted to give my all when it came to assignments. It was ingrained in me to do my very best and it was not hard to try. At least it wasn’t in the beginning. 

Throughout high school, I was a three sport athlete, member of student government, and taking every AP or Honors class available. I also wasn’t without a life. I would hang out with my friends and family, go to dances and parties. The issue was that I would take on everything. I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be great. I would build a workload so crushing that the pressure threatened to destroy me. The stress would eat at me and keep me awake at night. The thought of letting someone down, failing a quiz, missing a game, or skipping a hangout was detrimental. This is where all the things I once loved, I loathed. I loved learning and a challenge, but once that challenge became insurmountable, I would fear it.

As I entered college, I was given a chance to clean the slate, something I desperately needed. I needed a refresh, a new normal. Freshman year of college is chaotic to say the least. You plunge into an entirely new environment and must balance school, life, new opportunities, friends, and family all at the same time while remembering to breathe. As an academic burnout, playing the balancing game was already a major task in my daily life. This time, however, I was able to do it on my own terms. I am who I am, so I love a challenge. I like being busy, but I was no longer going to let that control my life. I draw the lines. I say no. I focus on my education but I no longer let it confine me. I remember to give myself grace and have patience. 

We are fed this idea that we need to burn for our work. We need to push ourselves to the limits. We need to constantly be the best. Especially as girls growing up, feminist ideas to be a badass, never let a boy win, never give up were plastered everywhere to fight the thousands of years ridiculousness that women were less than men. At its core, these messages were centuries late and a blaring necessity, but the hurricane of “be a woman in STEM,” “we can do better,” “you are stronger,” created a pressure for young girls to prove those statements, to back them up. I wanted to back them up. I wanted to be the best to prove that girls were entitled to a seat at the table. Failing felt like disappointing an entire gender, an entire movement.

To fellow academic burnouts out there, remember to take a moment. Remember to go easy on yourself. It is alright to wake up one day and say, “I don’t like this. I don’t want to do this anymore,” and it is okay to actually stop! Stop doing what makes you unhappy! Stop giving everything when you get less in return! School can be your top priority but it does not need to be your only one. Your life is only yours to live. Do not let the pressure of family, friends, or societal expectations deter you from living your own life. You get to do it your way. I’m not saying that you can’t take on projects and jobs and activities (Lord knows I will be). I’m saying that you deserve to be nice to yourself and not run at 100% all the time; you can take it at a jog and still get there. Being exceptional is not always made of blood, sweat, and tears. You don’t need to be exceptional, you already are; you simply need to be.

Sam is a first-year Economics Major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She is currently involved in Her Campus as an editorial writer and a part of other Cal Poly clubs such as Investing and Waterski. Sam loves traveling, The Princess Diaries, strawberries, reading, and winning at card games. If she's not making a new Spotify playlist, you'll catch her working out or hanging out with friends!