12/15/2011 09:28 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2012

Stress? Live Your Life, and Don't Settle For Less

After typing the concluding sentence to my essay, I shut off my laptop and light and groped about in the darkness until I reached the unkempt mound of blankets and pillows that is my bed. Glancing at the obnoxiously neon digital clock that read 5:30 a.m., I sailed from the rocky shores of consciousness into a calming sea of sleep, at peace for a glorious moment...

...Moment is right, for the next thing I knew, I was being rudely awakened at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. by the incessant beeping of a clock apparently designed to torture not only one's eyes in the darkness, but ears in the morning as well.

Resisting the urge to strangulate the offending appliance with its own electrical cord (I hadn't the energy, to be honest); I quite literally rolled out of bed and dropped to the floor. From there, I proceeded to go about my morning routine in a state of seething bitterness directed at the world; for being too cold, for being too early, for spinning on its axis too accurately.

You name it, I hated it.

The entire day at school, I envisioned gum-plastered desks to be Tempur-Pedic mattresses. The shoulder of the guy who sits next to me? A fluffed pillow made entirely of swan feathers.

As I continued to go through the motions, I realized with a start that somewhere along the way, I stopped trying to get the most out of life and instead began to devote all of my efforts to surviving, as opposed to wholehearted living.

In between the projects, essays, presentations, and calculus formulas, teenagers are notorious for unwittingly allowing themselves to be consumed by the black hole that is commonly referred to as "Stress." And, in a cruel twist of irony, any moment that is not dedicated to actually accomplishing the tasks themselves is then utilized to complain about the seemingly endless pile of impending pressure -- lending itself, unfortunately, to a vicious cycle.

Amidst the haze created by my zombie-like state, I indifferently brushed off attempts from a friend to invite me to a Christmas party, a compliment from one of the teachers I greatly admire, and the object of my affections trying to strike up a conversation (tragic, I know).

At some point, a question is posed: If life surrounds you on every side, what right do you have to live life like a robot?

With the realization that I am metaphorically (I am tempted to include physically as well) disintegrating by wasting time and energy on what is required of me rather than aiming to achieve a goal I set for myself, the human within the zombie arose and fought to resume control.

I'm 17 years old. From now on, I'm going to spring out of bed with a lively step and a hearty thwack to "OFF" button. There's plenty of time for smashing alarm clocks later in life.

Sign up for our email.
Find out how much you really know about the state of the nation.