You may have heard, a few times or perhaps 25 times, during admissions talks or your days as a prospie or from your professors, or you complaining to your friends in incoherent sentences at 3:00a.m., that Grinnell classes are hard.
Then you add in extracurriculars, work, applying for internships or summer programs, applying for more work, and not being that person who never goes to anything. And then there are the unfortunate other basic necessities, like washing your clothes and then drying them two times before giving up.
So it’s no surprise to me that I’ve been feeling pretty busy lately, and that most of the people I talk to feel the same way. But while I am all for preparing for the future and being involved, and while I recognize making money can be pretty important given just how much attending Grinnell costs, I think in many cases the busyness can get out of hand.
At some point a lot of us are just doing as much as we can because it’s become a bad thing to stop adding commitments until you’ve cut down on sleep by at least a few hours to make room. Recently, I talked to a friend who mentioned they felt guilty then they had free time. I know that when I have free time, my first thought is, “What have I forgotten that I’m supposed to be doing now?”
Of course, there are plenty of Grinnell students who have a good balance and keep a manageable workload, whether in their life manageable is a few activities and a job or taking the time to actually watch the ever growing list of Netflix shows that I apparently have to watch. But I’m fairly confident I’m correct in saying there is a significant portion of students for whom this is not the case.
What I’ve realized about being too busy is that first of all, it’s bad for us in many ways. Just in terms of physical health, having the time to sleep, to exercise, and to be sick, is important both because it prevents our current head colds from snowballing into Superflu, and so we develop habits which aren’t going to cost us huge sums in hospital bills down the road. And sleep also plays an important role in mental health, not to mention the direct mental health effects of being stressed and rushed all the time.
Also, if we forget or never learn how to accept and handle free time by the end of four years at Grinnell, that represents a huge loss. I’m fine aiming to be a conscientious student, or a responsible young adult. But I’d prefer not to be a workaholic, and I’m beginning to be uncomfortable aware that the only difference is between me and the stock stereotype on a workplace comedy is a few more years of growing older.
But a less talked about point is that overcommitment also bad for all the people who are depending on you to do your part in some small way, as a club member, an employee, a friend, or a fellow member of the student body.
In a certain light, juggling too much to be able to stop and think is a little selfish. There should be more to doing something than just checking it of a list. Critical thinking and creativity shouldn’t end when you walk out of the classroom, but I know that for me often I don’t really feel like I have time to actually consider what I am doing and why I am doing it. I can think of plenty of times my silly, tired mistakes have cause trouble for other people, and plenty of times other people’s tired, silly mistakes have caused trouble for me.
So take the time to relax and actually be a person as opposed to a walking, talking, caffeine intake machine. At the end of the day, doing less more thoughtfully would probably be a better outcome for all involved.