Balancing school, his personal life, & fighting depression, John explains how Sugarland has always shined the light for him…
“Little Miss” seems as though it was written for the entire teenage population. I see every one of my friends in this song. I see myself in this song.
I’m 16–a junior in high school. Most list junior year as the worst year of their life: SATs, standardized tests determining whether you graduate, research papers, college level work with more homework than you’d ever get in college. But for me, sophomore year was my nightmare. Nothing specific happened that was that terrible. It was just day to day living. I had a pleasant summer before sophomore year began, during which I first discovered Sugarland. I had listened to them a bit earlier that year when they encouraged me to just “let go laughing”. But now, they made me see there was “something more” and I should never start “settlin'”.
I went into sophomore year feeling very strongly about living my best life now. However, I soon discovered all my teachers were elderly, out of touch men who were generally not very kind nor informed about their subject matter. I spent my days listening to them ramble on about uninteresting, inaccurate facts. Then, they would assign homework. I knew exactly what to expect from each day. Boredom. Listening to stuff I already knew, or if I didn’t, could teach myself. But either way it didn’t matter to me because the stuff I was learning had no impact on the rest of my life. I was wasting my time. And I was so tired of it. I felt the pain of mediocrity in every fiber of my being. I wanted to LIVE life, not just muttle through it. But I had no choice, no escape. And even on the weekends, I felt so much pressure to make up for a week of missed opportunity that I couldn’t even enjoy those.
Eventually, I was overtaken by depression. I could not enjoy ANYTHING. I was not me. I was not anyone. Just an empty robot programmed to repeat the same thing over and over, without ever trying to change anything or to fight for a better life. I was “Little Mis(ter) One Big Mess”. I went for so long without feeling happy. Obviously, this effected everything else. I would often snap at my mom, and she would of course, blame it on me being a teenager. That’s what society has trained us to believe. That teenagers have no control over their emotions and they’re just a wreck all the time because of their age. Not true. If adults had to handle what we have to handle everyday, they would act the same. She also questioned why I was the only one who felt this way. The truth is I wasn’t. I knew that everyone else in my school felt the same way. Not only had they often confessed to those emotions, but you could see it in their eyes, the way they held themselves. You could hear it in the humor they hid behind.
During this time, the sweet poetry of Sugarland’s “Love on the Inside” comforted me. I also went to my first Sugarland concert. I looked towards the summer. I thought I’d feel better then. I didn’t. The truth is: when that kind of sadness overtakes you, you don’t just magically get better. I started trying to make myself feel better. I would exercise more. Focus more on my appearance. Wear nicer clothes. A big thing with depression is you stop caring about yourself. So I regained that. I started caring more about my appearance than ever before. And it built up my self confidence. I started feeling better. Now, that I had started getting myself back, I had changed. I was different than what I was before the depression. But I was embracing this change, with my heart “wide open”.
When school started, I thought this year would be better. Because of that change. Why shouldn’t it be? However, like I said, junior year is no fun. I was constantly overtaken by homework. I had no time for me. For what makes me happy. Everything was school. However, I was different. I was stronger. I had overcome the depression. I had regained the ability to feel joy. It’s just–life was trying extra hard to push me away from enjoying that. I had found the beat again, but I came close to kicking my heart til I broke it again.
I was always worried about schoolwork. My grades were slipping, I couldn’t keep up, and I felt like it was all my fault. I would sometimes choose to do something else besides schoolwork that I thought would make me happy. So if something got checked that I hadn’t done, and my grade went down, I felt it was because I was lazy. Because I was slacking. It was around this time “The Incredible Machine” came out. This album reminded me how important my happiness is. That I didn’t deserve to live like this. It made me want to “stand up” and fight for my joy. As teens, we are an oppressed group. Forced into a life we don’t want. Disrespected and treated like ‘less than’. Deprived of rights. We are “all the lonely people crying.”
However, around December, I just decided to live. And not worry about everything. What will be, will be. I can’t let my life center around school. And if I maybe get a B instead of an A because of that–oh, well. My happiness is more important. I also got better at figuring out which work was the most important and would have the most effect on my grade. And I would do that.
But I look around, I see all the people who haven’t figured that out. Who tell me they get maybe two or three hours of sleep every night because they spend seven hours at school, then they have extra curricular activities (because they look good to colleges), then they go home and have hours and hours of homework. There’s no time for everything. So they just have to stay up late. They are “Little Miss never rest, Little Miss do your best, Little Miss I’ll take less when I always give so much more.” Because they are told “you’ll go far” if you “hide your scars”. And there are sometimes, when getting trapped in that Little Miss-ness is inevitable. There is just too much. And I hate those days. Because getting three hours of sleep? Is school really more important than your health? It’s what the world has led us to believe. But no, it’s not. You deserve better than that. Is school more important than your happiness? No.
We have God-given rights, and no one has the right to take those away. The right to self respect. How much self respect can we truly have if a research paper is more important than our sleep? The right to be happy, which school constantly takes away. Wanting those rights does not make us weak. It makes us strong. And in order to preserve these rights, we must exercise our first amendment rights–freedom of speech, freedom of protest. Don’t just take it. You deserve “something more”. Go out there and be “Little Miss Do Your Part”. Peacefully protest. Write letters.
And remember, you are important. And “you are loved”, no matter what. And “it WILL be alright again.” I’m just happy to say that finally, after all this time, after all the sadness: “I’m okay.” 🙂 It just hurts me to see that virtually every teenager is going through this, and no one is saying anything.