DEAR ABBY: I'm a high-school freshman with a dilemma. I'm a good student and get A's in all my classes. I'm also an athlete. I play year-round softball and have started playing soccer for the high-school team.
My problem is, I took a debate class over the summer and really liked it. I want to join the debate team, but I am unsure if it would be piling too much on my plate for my first year.
I'll be carrying one honors class in addition to two above-grade-level classes. Debate practices are held after sports practices two days a week for one to two hours, so they wouldn't directly conflict with anything except homework time.
Do you think I'm overestimating how much I can handle in extracurricular activities this year?
- Too Ambitious? in Oregon
DEAR TOO AMBITIOUS: The fact that this is causing you concern could be an indicator that it is too much.
That's why, before making up your mind, you should discuss this with your parents as well as your guidance counselor at school.
Ashley: Not even a little bit.
Ashley: Wait, are we talking about Abby's advice, or answering the LW's question?
Lulu: Both. First of all, "ask your parents" is such a blow-off answer that I can't believe she's even running the column, if she's that stumped. Second, no. It's not too much.
Ashley: That's what I meant. Oh noes, one honors class. Poor baby.
Lulu: Yeah. This kid seems like a geek, and for a geek, he is severely overestimating the difficulty of high school. The fact that he's worried isn't a sign that he's right; it's a sign that he's a worrier, which is more indication that he's a geek! Look: a sufficiently motivated geek can pretty much do every club. Maybe not if they are held at the same time, but maybe even then. Since the practices for sports and debate don't conflict, it means they're designed so you can do both, in which case you can definitely do both. You don't start questioning whether it's too much until you have to break nine different rules in order to get your schedule lined up.
Ashley: Even then.
Lulu: And homework is nothing to worry about. Also, homework is boring! Why would you miss out on doing something you enjoy so you can devote more time to something you don't enjoy?
Ashley: Debate club should teach you the skills to get out of homework.
Ashley: But before joining debate club, I'd switch to all honors classes.
Lulu: Agreed. The hardest classes are not that much harder than the easy classes and they are more fun because there is more time on the material and less time on basic discipline.
Ashley: Or at least less busywork which takes more time. Nothing like handing in your notebook every week. I had to do that for psych class in high school: hand in my notes for the class. To make sure I was taking them.
Lulu: The thing is, it is easy to quit things if you get overwhelmed. Why make the decision now? Try it out. Even if you fully believe you will drop something, if you sign up for everything to start, the decision about what to drop will be informed by what is actually the most fun.
Ashley: Just do everything. People should have the Starbucks strategy, especially in high school: If you can handle the current load, keep adding stuff.
Lulu: Until the market is saturated?
Ashley: Precisely. You never know how many Starbucks is too many until you reach unprofitability.
Lulu: The other disheartening part of the advice given is that I can almost guarantee a guidance counselor would also tell the student to not to overextend himself, and I really believe that's bad advice! Isn't it better to scale down because of a real reason--"I felt overwhelmed"--than a feared reason--"I was afraid I was going to feel overwhelmed"? Feeling overwhelmed isn't like death: it's temporary and reversible! You don't have to anticipate it. Be limited by real constraints, not imagined ones! Fly, little bird!
Ashley: Why do you always say that? You know we give advice to humans, right, and not to birds?
Lulu: Oh. That makes the debate club I was imagining much less adorable.