Lack of extracurriculars triggers isolation


Photo by Lily Hultgren ’25

I have done ballet for a total of eight or so years. In middle school I started learning to dance with pointe shoes which was both painful and a good experience. I also did theater which I still love to this day even though I don’t participate in it anymore. I always did every school play and while I was far from having the talent of a lead I just enjoyed being in the ensemble and performing on the stage.

My elementary and middle school years were filled with two things: ballet and theater. I had been doing ballet since I was a toddler and went to dance practice around three days a week. In addition to dance, I had also done all the school plays which led me to spend almost everyday staying afterschool for rehearsal. I constantly complained about how busy my schedule was, but the truth is, I actually liked it.

I always had something to do and I formed relationships with people that I saw almost every day. My activities made me feel like I was a part of a community which gave me a sense of belonging. However, that all changed after I quit ballet and theater in eighth grade, where I soon found that the absence of extracurriculars can lead to a feeling of loneliness.

All of a sudden, I didn’t belong to the communities that I had been a part of for years. I had less to do so I ended up spending more time sitting around. This was terrible for my mental health as I would spend this time dwelling on how I don’t have anything going on in my life and rarely saw any of my friends after school. Without my activities, I didn’t think I belonged anywhere.

At the beginning of ninth grade, I had already been slowly sinking further into this dark pit of loneliness. However, I attended the Involvement Fair where I was introduced to the many clubs offered at Staples. Even though I joined a few clubs, the meetings were less frequent than my previous extracurriculars and I still lacked the schedule and community that I had benefited so much from in elementary and middle school. 

My activities made me feel like I was a part of a community which gave me a sense of belonging.

— Lily Hultgren

But then everything changed when I joined the Inklings staff at the end of the year. All of a sudden I had a more involved schedule as well as a community where I felt I belonged. My mental health immediately improved and I felt more motivated in school as well as outside of school. 

Only now can I see how beneficial extracurriculars are, and how without them, life can be really difficult. In fact, the National Library of Medicine reports that “time spent in extracurricular activities during high school predicted upward movement, or a positive developmental pathway, over the transition to adulthood.” Overall, beyond just statistics, I feel so much better about myself and feel so much more connected with others when I am regularly participating in extracurriculars.