Learning how to fall

Evelyn Kuhnlein '20, Business Manager

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.” Those were the words that spiraled around my brain as I fell off a Razor scooter in front of the whole school at the 2018 pep assembly. They were also the words that went through my head when I found out in March that I would not be returning to a school I so publicly and deeply love.
Embarrassing myself in front of a gym full of our South community was something I’ll never forget, and many that were watching also have not. It was a turning point – the beginning of a year where my school life started to take form. Devil’s Den* was slowly starting to come together; I had come into my own in Student Association with my eyes set on President for senior year. I became Business Manager in Tower and was extremely involved at South. I was climbing a ladder I wanted to be at the top of.
As the year progressed, stepping up the ladder became harder. I was rarely in class. My teachers could tell and my grades and mental health showed for it. I ended up taking chemistry in summer school and had the option to do the same for a few other classes. I was overworked and overbooked, something each one of my teachers would tell my parents at conferences. I had to cut something out but I was too passionate and stubborn to take a step down.
Success is a double-edged sword at South.
They want you to do your best, but with the competitive nature of the school and our generation, it becomes way too easy to push yourself too far. I was a machine, I wanted to be the best in everything I did and I was crushed if I let anyone down. I would say I felt pressure from my family, friends and teachers, but the real pressure came from myself.
I had set up this image of myself that I wanted everyone to see. The involved, hardworking and charismatic girl. I was so dead set on that unattainable image that I would stop at nothing to achieve it.
This carried into senior year when I became president of SA and Devil’s Den. I had reached the top of my ladder, but it still wasn’t enough.
I was a leader at South that was now being held to an even higher standard and unattainable image. I was so burnt out and lived for the weekends where I could sleep in and numb the stress of the week. It was a never-ending cycle. I thought it would be easier once I got to the top of the ladder, but all I wanted to do was go back to the bottom.
My drive had hurt my friendships to the point where I looked around and realized I had no real friends. I had a long list of people I could say hi to and have a conversation with, but I didn’t make time to create real friendships. I took my emotions out on the tiniest things. I obsessed over how an email was worded or a sign that should’ve moved two inches to the left – things that truly didn’t matter, but would make me spiral into an endless pit of perfection if not done to my standards. I was never content and would snap at anything. As senior year started to wrap up, I began to feel the weight of spring celebrations on my shoulders. I was stressed.**
Then COVID hit. I was devastated and holding on to hope of a normal senior spring. It felt like I was falling down a hole I just couldn’t escape. Everything came to a stop. After grieving, I decided to get back up. Every task I overthought and put too much energy into seemed so trivial now.
I’ve begun reading, cooking and doing some gardening – things I would never attempt to make time for in my busy life. This break has shown me that everything I once thought was the end of the world was literally not even close. I’m excited to get back to normal life, but I plan to not go back to who I was before this. I don’t want to be mean, exhausted and anxious anymore. This quarantine was a second chance and I plan to create a new positive and healthier ladder because of it.
*Known as Grosse Pointe South Student Athletic Pride Club at that point. Facebook still won’t let me change that atrocious mouthful of a name to Devil’s Den on our page. Mark, please figure it out. I can’t look at it another day.
**What was new?