A few weeks ago I sat in the library one night furiously working on a paper. This paper was due in a few days and I had a handful of other assignments to complete within that time as well. I was feeling stressed and incessantly told my roommates how busy I was going to be that week.
About an hour into working, I got an email from my professor whose class this paper was for, saying our paper would be due the following week, granting my class a glorious five-day extension. After reading this email, I immediately felt a sense of calm. I packed up my belongings hours earlier than I anticipated and headed back home excited to go to bed early (#GOALS).
I went from feeling worried and anxious about finishing my paper in time, to feeling a sense of calm about finishing. As I left the library though, I felt a little guilty for not working on my paper for as long as I originally planned. This new extension meant my week wouldn’t be nearly as busy as I thought it would be, and I didn’t need to be frantically trying to fill every moment of my day with getting everything done. But why did I feel guilty about this? Why did getting less done in one day, even though I had almost a whole week to finish, make me feel like a failure?
Think about how many meetings, tests, projects, and other assignments a typical college student has in a week. Think of how many times we answer, “Barely surviving,” “I’m so stressed,” or “I’m so busy this week,” when someone asks us how we’re doing. Think about how many times a week you tell someone how busy you are.
Do we always tell people how busy we are because we are subconsciously proud of how jam-packed our schedules are? Do we want this person to feel sorry for us, or congratulate us? There’s nothing wrong with being busy, and there’s nothing wrong with venting about stressors every now and again, but the idea that busyness and stress equal success is harmful.
The student who performs their best while enrolled in 12 credit hours is no less successful than the student who does their best enrolled in 18. Jamming your schedule to feel successful is unnecessary. Going into a test feeling calm while the rest of your class feels nervous and stressed doesn’t mean you didn’t study enough. It doesn’t mean you’re slacking by not freaking out. It means you’re confident in what you’ve learned and your mental state reflects that.
A day spent at home watching Netflix all day is not necessarily a waste. You don’t need to spend every waking moment going to meetings, getting coffee with friends, working on papers or studying; you’re allowed to take time to do nothing and feel good about that. Taking a break from your responsibilities does not mean you’re lazy or not succeeding. It means you’re human and need some time to recharge.
In order to fully enjoy our time as college students, it’s important to stop glorifying being busy, and realize that doing nothing is just as important to your college experience as all of the classes and clubs you’re involved in.
Give yourself a break sometimes, and don’t ever feel like a failure because of it.
Photo via Anna Schultz