STAFF OPINION: Academics vs. “Wicked”

By Emma Sells | March 3, 2023 10:00am
by Emma Sells / The Beacon

Here’s a life lesson I think we all should learn from the musical “Wicked”: Don’t take life so seriously.

Though Fiyero isn’t the protagonist of the musical — and doesn’t quite deliver the main message of the show — his character teaches audiences to live “the unexamined life.” Throughout the song “Dancing Through Life,” Fiyero argues in favor of letting go of responsibilities like school, societal pressure and authority in general.

I want to say a little something about this message of not taking school so seriously.

He says that schools always try to teach the wrong lessons, that we should be “mindless and careless” and “make sure [we’re] where less trouble is rife.”

And before parents or professors throw a fit, just hear me out. I’m not arguing we all should “slough it off as he does and blow off school altogether.

But I think there’s an important message hidden within Fiyero’s carefree lifestyle. 

In May, I’ll graduate from The University of Portland Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree after four years of — excuse my French — busting my ass at school. To top it off, I’m heading straight to graduate school in the fall, working toward a master’s degree. Despite a global pandemic getting in the way, I’ve spent all my academic career striving to achieve perfection. 

I am well acquainted with academic stress.

Since elementary school, it seems like academia was shoved down my throat. Kids were divided into programs like Math Olympiads and Gifted And Talented Education (GATE), thus jump starting my academic pressure to succeed at the ripe age of seven.

Throughout middle and high school, I judged my worth on how many honors and AP classes I could take, how high my GPA was and what colleges I got into. I joined my peers in becoming a member of the National Honors Society, engaging in extracurriculars on top of a rigorous school schedule and joining clubs on campus that look good on resumes.

I carried this academic pressure to succeed like a second skin. It weighed me down and constantly told me that I’m only worthy if I am performing my best.

I began my college career the exact same way. I didn’t attend many events or sports games, only joined some clubs that could help further my education and focused more on my homework rather than the people around me. 

But now on the cusp of graduation, I’m looking back at my academic career with a strange mixture of pride and regret.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my achievements and recognize that I worked hard to earn these accolades. But a quick glance down memory lane shows weekends where I studied instead of going out or meeting new people. My days were spent in the library rather than soaking in the sun with an added pressure to be perfect rather than understanding that my self-worth isn’t defined by my grade point average.

I’d been so focused on using my college experience to get the perfect grades, be a perfect student and become the perfect candidate for master’s programs that I’d completely forgotten college is supposed to be a chance to meet new people, make life-long friends and grow as a person.

College is a chance to “dance through life” for a while while we’re still young.

If I could do it all over again, I’d take a page from Fiyero’s book. I’d tell freshman year me — so prepared to keep her head down, nose to the grindstone and work as hard as she could until she graduated — to take a breather and realize that there’s more to college than getting a good GPA.

So in these last few months of my undergrad experience, I’m choosing to focus a little less on academic validation and a little more on making memories.

I implore you to listen to Fiyero, too. 

I think you definitely should care about school and work hard in your classes, but you should also understand that life is more than academic achievement. We only get one life, why fill it up with stress about looking perfect on a resumé?

“Nothing matters but knowing nothing matters

It's just life

So keep dancing through”

I think Fiyero had it right — it’s just life. So go forth and keep dancing.

Emma Sells is the Multimedia Editor for The Beacon and can be reached at

Have something to say about this? We’re dedicated to publishing a wide variety of viewpoints, and we’d like to hear from you. Voice your opinion in The Beacon.