School, work and social life—there has to be a balance

Being busy can be a good thing, right? Studies have shown that people who have a little more on their plate are better at managing their time. But I definitely think there are limits to how much any one person can do. And it’s the boundaries of these limits that our society continually encourages students to test. I think almost every student can attest to the fact that we work too much and far too quickly.

Students are urged to get involved from the very moment they set foot on campus. There seems to be this overwhelming pressure to fill every block of space with something to do, and, in my experience, it happens so seamlessly that you almost don’t realize it.

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Over the course of a few months, three things occurred in my life that led to my writing on this specific topic.

The first: I spent six weeks of my summer in the Yucatán Peninsula. There I lived, studied and functioned at an entirely different pace, one practically unheard of here in the U.S., and at times it was frustratingly difficult to adjust to.

The second: after I returned, my slightly unhealthy daily routine of watching the Twilight movies to a point where I could quote scenes verbatim had developed into an intensely satisfying relationship with Ted.com. It was on this site where I stumbled across the work of Carl Honoré and his 2005 talk “In Praise of Slowness.”

And thirdly: when I realized that I was about to begin another 18-credit, two job and a service project semester, I experienced one of the worst panic attacks I had ever had.

The root of my panic stemmed from flashbacks of my experiences of previous semesters. At one point, I was closing in on what looked like a nervous breakdown. I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t put myself together. And most importantly, I couldn’t give anything I did the 100% of attention that it deserved. I felt that if I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t being productive enough. I always had to be doing something to feel satisfied.

This type of thinking is dangerous.

It was in the conjunction with these three things when I got my wake-up call; my “A-ha” moment, I guess you could say.

The first thing I came to realize was that it is ok to not overexert myself. It took me a while to realize that if I didn’t fill every second of every day with some task that someone else wanted me to do, it was ok to not do anything if I didn’t want to.

I also came to see, with the help of Carl Honoré’s words and my experiences abroad, that there is a value and a virtue in the art of slowness. As a collective group, we devalue the benefits of slowness. Let’s face it, we don’t like anything slow.

The ideology of our culture and university setting is that “faster is always better and busiest is best” as Carl Honoré puts it. So, what I had learned while suffocating under all that needed to be done in as little time as possible was to function on auto-pilot.

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Creativity was thrown out the window, along with developing meaningful relationships and self-exploration. I started noticing that my conversations with my classmates were limited to petty competitions of whose “to-do” list was longer.

Always trying to be productive was consuming me, and I was too busy “getting things done” to see where I was headed.

A friend I had met in Mexico once told me that he feels our Western culture promotes this type of speedy behavior. And because the U.S. moves too fast, we don’t have enough time to enjoy and create. But it’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s that we just don’t make enough time.
And I think, as students, we need to turn the dial back a bit. We shouldn’t be functioning on the highest speed at all times.

Between homework, classes, jobs and all the extras you’re involved in, it’s easy—scarily so—to get lost in the hype of it all. Because we are pressured to do so much, I feel that we are missing out on experiences. I am not saying there isn’t any value in quickness or that we need to solely focus on being slow, but that there must be a balance between the two.

Nicole Frazier is a senior English and Spanish major. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.