Ease Up for College

“I am just SO BUSY,” she says with an exasperated sigh. “Me too. I don’t know how I’m supposed to get everything done, what with working 50 hours this week and having to write a 20-page paper on metaphysics,” he said, groaning.

“Tell me about it. I have to work 70 hours this week, volunteer at CHUM for 10 hours and do eight assignments.”

“Yeah, and that doesn’t even compare to next week! I have to work 95 hours and cure cancer.”

“It sucks being so busy,” she concedes. They simultaneously write the exchange in the planners, having to rearrange their days based on the minute they just wasted on this exchange. Who has time for socializing these days, anyway?

Being busy has become a bragging right in college. It’s cool to get only five hours of sleep a night, pull all-nighters and be the head of five committees. It’s as though we are earning our academic merit badges: Multi-Tasking, Volunteering, Leadership, Caffeine Consumption, Summa Cum Laude and Bragging. We wear our badges proudly, shuffling around like zombies on speed from one task to the next. But is it really necessary?

Don’t get me wrong — I’m also one of the Busy Ones. My first year of college coincided with my first year of full-time work (the overnight shift) at a place I will call BallFart —some refer to it as BallyWorld. After quitting that soul-sucking job, I moved onto a lower-paying and higher-hour alternative that was far more gratifying. I’ve been in college for five years now and have always kept a full-time course load in addition to full-time (40 hour) workload.

Though I need to work this much in order to support myself, I could have easily chosen to do school only part-time. And I think this is true for the schedules of many students at UMD. We overwork ourselves to boost our resumes, to get a leg up on the competition, but all this hard work may be working against us.

It wasn’t until this summer that my hectic schedule really caught up with me. I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and ended up having to quit one of my jobs. I felt like a failure — how could I just give up? What about my resume? Do I really want to live off of my savings for a month?

I realized that I had been pushing myself harder and harder throughout the years, accomplishing one task only to move immediately on to the next. I never stopped and felt the joy of a job well done; instead, I only felt numb, needing that adrenaline rush that comes with taking on a new project. I started to limit myself only to things that I could put on a resume or boost my GPA. What I lost were the things that made me happy.

I thought that the success would be the part to make me feel happy, that if only I reached my goals I would feel fulfilled. The problem was that I didn’t have an end goal — I had goals that led one to the next, boosting my resume but taking a toll on my health and happiness. I had to relearn what it meant for me to be happy, to critically examine whether the path I was on would lead me to that joyous state or if I would have to completely restart.

Now is the time to do it. We don’t want to look back on these years when we’re 40 and realize we put ourselves on the wrong path. We need to focus on making ourselves happy now — it may mean dropping a few classes, switching majors or getting a different job. It might even mean relaxing our schedules.

And there’s more to this than just avoiding the stress that comes with being busy. Sometimes when we pack our schedules so full that we no longer have time to relax, socialize or have fun, our stress can turn into anxiety. If we don’t have outlets for this anxiety, we put our health in danger.

UMD Counseling Services encourages students to be aware of the differences between stress and anxiety. Though the former is often a good thing in healthy doses, often motivating us when we’d rather be unproductive, the latter can get in the way of everything we’ve worked for.

“Too much anxiety can be crippling rather than motivating,” according to the UMD Health Services website. “It prevents you from completing projects because every little detail might not be ‘perfect’ so you are afraid to hand your project in. You worry about things you know you have no control over, but you just can't stop worrying. You can't concentrate because you are distracted by other concerns.”

Let’s stop bragging (I mean “complaining”) about being so busy. Not everything has to be a competition, especially when we are actively working against ourselves. Instead, we need to be honest. We need to encourage each other to do what makes us happy, to pay attention to our bodies and to reach out when we need help. Just because we can do anything doesn’t mean we have to do everything.


Staff Reporter

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