Ja­cob Alvarado, Ridgewood


Iam a sopho­more in high school. Al­though I still have more than half of high school left, I know that I have made some life-chang­ing de­ci­sions in the past two years. The best de­ci­sion was to run cross coun­try in the fall. I am by no means a good run­ner, but in 8th grade I de­cided to give cross coun­try a chance and signed up along with a few of my friends.

As I was giv­ing up my time to play a sport, I was in­cred­i­bly wor­ried about the up­com­ing work­load. As the old­est child, I’ve al­ways got­ten in­for­ma­tion about up­per grades through my friends’ sib­lings, and one of the most preva­lent facts about Ridgewood High School was that the amount of home­work you re­ceived would be noth­ing like be­fore. If you went to bed be­fore mid­night, even as a fresh­man, you were lucky. This ter­ri­fied me. As some­one who strug­gled to stay up past 10 p.m., I fig­ured that 9th grade wasn’t go­ing to be fun.

Sum­mer ended quickly and soon enough, I was at a new school with a ton of work. Still, I found my­self go­ing to prac­tice ev­ery day even when I had a seem­ingly mas­sive amount of home­work. As one week turned into two, and then into a month, and then two months, I re­al­ized that what I had heard wasn’t en­tirely true. Sure, I had more work than pre­vi­ous years, but there was never a night where I had to stay up un­til 3 a.m. just to fin­ish home­work.

I won’t lie, there were def­i­nitely days where I told my­self that I had to quit cross coun­try and there was no way I would put my­self through this ever again. When the sea­son ended though, I found my­self think­ing the ex­act op­po­site. I had learned so many valu­able les­sons.

The first was how to man­age my time and per­fect my study tech­niques. Some days I would come right home from prac­tice, shower quickly, start my home­work, eat din­ner, fin­ish my home­work and then study for any up­com­ing quizzes or tests. In the be­gin­ning of the year, this pat­tern would be full of 30-minute long breaks where I would sit on my phone and do any­thing to avoid work­ing. As time went on and the work­load in­creased, I started to check my phone less and less.

One of the best strate­gies I for­mu­lated was to put my phone in a dif­fer­ent room be­fore start­ing my work. Al­though my phone was nearby, I didn’t hear it buzz ev­ery time I got a no­ti­fi­ca­tion and was much less tempted to check it. This greatly helped me im­prove my study habits.

The most ironic thing that hap­pened was that af­ter the sea­son ended, my grades started to drop when I had ex­pected the ex­act op­po­site. I think it was be­cause of all the free time I now had and I started to go back to my old habits of check­ing my phone too of­ten, and be­ing less pro­duc­tive. I found it in­ter­est­ing that when I had less time avail­able I ac­tu­ally ac­com­plished more.

I know cross coun­try isn’t for ev­ery­one, but I think ev­ery­one should con­sider try­ing some­thing new, es­pe­cially in the fall. Trust me, I would have never thought I would say that, but now I can’t imag­ine the fall with­out cross coun­try.

If you find a sport, club, in­stru­ment, or any other ac­tiv­ity that you have the slight­est in­ter­est in, go for it. Sure, there may be days where you want to drop ev­ery­thing and break down. But once you fin­ish, you will be stronger. Along with that, you will meet great peo­ple who share a com­mon in­ter­est. There have been mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions where I’ve found my­self run­ning along­side peo­ple who I would have never known oth­er­wise. At the end of the sea­son, we are sad that we won’t be spend­ing ev­ery af­ter­noon to­gether, run­ning rain or shine.

You don’t have to be the best to have a good time, but in ways you don’t even re­al­ize, ev­ery ac­tiv­ity will help you.

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