When I moved into Emerson a month ago and attended the slew of orientation activities, I left every event with the words “don’t overcommit” ringing in my head. But orientation week is now over and there is no longer a speech given every day to remind us that we should not overcommit.
I am often told by sleep-deprived upperclassmen that a typical day involves running from their work-study job, to their shift at WERS, to a quick club meeting, only to run late to their evening classes and then stumble into the newsroom with a large black coffee from EmCafe around nine. They relay all of this to me with painful dark circles under their eyes and a huge smile across their face. Emerson students get a strange satisfaction from being workaholics.
Our school embraces a fast-paced lifestyle that may be leading to devaluation of relaxation. This kind of tireless perseverance is understandable, since the careers this school caters to have high entry barriers and select from only the best graduates. However, students never seem to ask themselves if they are really showcasing their ability by stretching themselves so thin.
As a new student, I am definitely impressed by upperclassmen who seem to shoulder a lot of responsibility with ease. But the concept of quality versus quantity comes into play when I hear about younger students trying to steadfastly emulate the same balancing act. These students have yet to hone their time management skills and wind up completing only half of what they committed to. The widespread understanding that there is a transition period all students go through before they become seasoned jugglers is missing. Freshmen enter Emerson seeing the joy busy mentors get from their full schedules and envy the satisfaction these people have from their work. But they get too caught up in the concept of being a blissful, busy bee that they neglect how slow the climb to said state of mind might be.
The possibility that there are consequences to joining six clubs, retaining a job, doing school work, and building a social life doesn’t appear to cross the mind of ambitious students. As long as they get a sense of satisfaction from being needed in a project or being part of a club, they will continue to consider work their necessary drug. But every drug has side effects after the thrill. These situations can be detrimental to personal health and wellness. The fast-paced culture of this school blocks peripheral vision in stressful situations. It is true that their constantly ringing phones and inked-up planners can be a positive sign of productivity. On the other hand, it is important to recognize that this full-day sprint is exhausting to the body, and the difficulty of recognizing it as such can be worrisome.
This school environment lacks a critical understanding of balance. Since Emerson students get a thrill out of being so involved, we may unintentionally create a one-sided lens for students to look through. People often seem to believe that so long as they are attending all their meetings, classes, and social events without passing out, they are successfully balancing obligations. This notion is a common campus fallacy. This ideology not only encourages students to pack their schedules to full capacity, but it also develops a competitive culture that sets unrealistic standards.
It is important to acknowledge that there is an array of services Emerson provides to assist overwhelmed students, and occasional workshops do exist on the dangers of overcommitting. But it is also important to recognize that the thrill of being a little overworked runs deep in students and may need to be more openly discussed. Out of concern for the sleepy-eyed student who looks at their all-nighter as a mark of success, I urge us to pay more attention to what we consider an accolade.