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Friday, May 17
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

OPINION: The impossible task of staying 'busy' on a college campus

 opstayingbusy041023-illo

I remember complaining to someone back when I was in high school that I had trouble taking naps because my mind would become so preoccupied with the fact that I could be doing homework or otherwise being productive. 

She told me to remember that resting my body is just as important as doing work. This idea completely changed the way I view rest, leisure and pleasurable activities or hobbies. Rest and general enjoyment are not rewards for working hard and straining your mind and body, and productivity is not a prerequisite to take part in rest. 

When I arrived at IU, I was disappointed to see “Watch the sun come up after an all night study session” on the Office of First Year Experience Programs bucket list. While I understand the list is created as something lighthearted to get freshmen excited for the year ahead, I can’t help but feel discomfort at how normal it is in college to sacrifice sleep, eating and general wellness for studying and academic achievement.  

[Related: OPINION: We all need to play outside more]

Whether by choice or obligation, being “busy” and tied to productivity is simply the lifestyle many people live in college. For some, it could be working a job for 30 hours a week on top of classes. Others may fill their schedules with as many credits as they can possibly take, perhaps to graduate early or fulfill multiple majors. 

Since being here, I have heard many of my peers talk about how they do not have time — or forget — to eat three meals a day, sometimes relying on something as small as a protein bar or an apple to get through the day. Many students also rely heavily on caffeine, and it is rare that I find myself in a class without seeing at least a few neon energy drink cans in the hands of my classmates.  

In both high school and college, I have often observed that being as busy as possible is treated as an accomplishment or something to be proud of. I understand that there is a fine line here. In my own life, I have felt the satisfaction of working hard and putting in hours to become better at a sport, produce something meaningful — like a newspaper! — or get good grades. I don’t mean to say we need to lie around in the grass eating grapes and cheese all day, but working yourself into the ground is not the answer either.  

[Related: COLUMN: On the clock: Will embracing your soft feminine side help you find your true love?]

There were periods of time while I was in high school when I was virtually booked up the entire day — sometimes from 4 a.m to midnight — with school, swim practices, newspaper meetings and SAT study sessions. At the end of each day, I rarely felt fulfilled — I was exhausted and mentally drained. And yet, some people around me would applaud me for “doing it all” and being so busy. We should not be impressed with people for having the least time for social activities, sleep and self-care. We should be concerned. 

It is undoubtedly important to work hard and dedicate time to things that fulfill us, whether that be academics, clubs, sports or anything in between. But those things should never be trade-offs or at odds with our personal health. 

Leila Faraday (she/her) is a freshman studying policy analysis. 

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