Photo by Amy Liu

Four years of bad jokes

Why did the scarecrow get an award? Because he was out-standing in his field. [Cue laugh track.] I know; that was a really bad joke. It probably didn’t even make you laugh, but I swear my humor is usually much better than this. But these jokes (and much funnier ones) helped me cultivate a positive attitude to help overcome Lynbrook’s academic stress.

I still remember that fateful day in freshman year when I stepped out of my Biology class after receiving a test score that was much lower than I had expected. The multitude of emotions in my mind and weeks of burnout surprisingly culminated into laughter. Soon, the laughter turned into crying, and I felt myself slowly slipping into panic. Yet, as my tears started to dry, I felt a sense of catharsis from letting all my emotions out.

I’ve always viewed school as an obstacle in the grand scheme of my life as I reluctantly trudged through every day with a bright, neon sign reading “the future” hanging over my head. I needed to get good grades, apply for all the extracurricular activities I could and make college admissions fall in love with me. Yet, the expectation to do better than my best resulted in me doing worse than I imagined. I had to change the way I confronted my schoolwork if I wanted to stay afloat in this sea of stress.

Comedy was the solution: laughter helped me realize that the things I was most stressed about were relatively insignificant. By laughing at mistakes I made on tests or writing jokes in the margins of my APUSH notes and literature books, I started to improve academically. I felt less stressed, talked with classmates and asked teachers for help (who knew that would get my grades up?). I was becoming a person I was proud of.

Whether it’s self-degrading comments, nonsensical puns before exams or being late to class almost every day, I found ways to share my laughter with others. Making others laugh helped with relieving stress, creating a moment where people let themselves enjoy school instead of letting the pressure control them.

Enjoying school gave me a chance to breathe and focus on things that made me happy. I stopped seeking validation from the subjects and extracurricular activities I hated. I stopped trying to latch onto an idea of a perfect future.

These four years don’t dictate my life nor do they set up my success for the future. These four years just showed me how to take a step back and laugh, even when I feel like wallowing in self-pity. I can’t control everything in my life, so why should I stress about those things? The future might not pan out the way I want it to, but I’ll always find ways to laugh. I’ve taught myself not to chase after happiness in the future, but to find it exactly where I am now, in the present.

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