Doing a little bit of everything

Bryce McKay

Bryce McKayAs I got up on Tuesday morning, I briefly lamented the fact that I had gone to bed only 45 minutes before. Moving into the bathroom, I noticed that my hair perhaps didn’t look quite as hellish. “Is bad hair proportional to the amount of time spent in bed?” flashed through my mind as I stepped into the shower. I vaguely remember the realization that the act of showering takes away most of the residual “Why am I awake, much less alive?” sentiment after having pulled an all-nighter (excluding a 45 minute break to lie in bed awake, still hopped up on caffeine and terrified of sleeping through class to turn in the midterm I just finished). Unfortunately, the question “Why am I awake, much less alive?” came back about an hour and a half later as my first class finished. Of course, the moron factor comes into play here: Procrastinating a paper beyond what is reasonably recoverable for me is slightly moronic. Taking a heavy reading load with multiple history classes, not to mention two enormous papers (they’re enormous from my perspective, at least) at the end of the semester is also slightly moronic.

At the conclusion of each of four classes that day, it became progressively more difficult to persuade myself that attending class, learning and broadening horizons was more important than sleep. However, I did attend all classes, make poorly thought out comments in class and generally despise everyone. This is the really sickening part: Every day I interact with people that are taking more credits than I am. They are involved with everything, and they take every class, and then they go to work. I’m not ashamed to say that such interactions make me feel inadequate. I hate being asked how many credits I’m taking. Forgive me if I don’t respond, “Why, how many credits are you taking?” Because I just don’t want to know.
Perhaps you can see, then, why it becomes difficult for me to P-D-F a class and to ask for an extension on the midterm I haven’t started yet: it’s because everyone here is doing everything, and I am just trying to keep up. Then, after the day is finished and I just want to collapse into bed and not think or write or read, I wonder: How am I ever going to hold down a real job? How am I ever going to work real hours, cook for myself, and not be able to skip it or sleep through the morning a couple times?

Then it hits me: Our parents don’t have extra-curricular activities. They don’t have to compare how many hours they work with their friends. They don’t do three-hour rehearsals or student government meetings or staff meetings or discussion groups. It could be put another way: They aren’t so sure that they have to do everything. Which brings me to the “opinion” part of this random opinion in a college newspaper: Whitman needs to learn that we don’t have to do everything. I’m sure some of you are completely comfortable with your course loads and activities, but I’m also pretty sure that there are those of us who aren’t. And we get burnt out sometimes, and work gets pushed back, and we get B’s or C’s on midterms we procrastinated because in all honesty, we were doing something else.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one for whom this situation comes up, because I’ve spoken to people that have this or worse: multiple, successive all-nighters. One who subscribes to the narrative reasoning outlined here has to conclude that at the root of the problem is the mentality that we have to do everything. I can’t do it anymore, and maybe this realization needs to happen for a lot of us. We can only wear so many hats before our proverbial head falls off. Additionally, beyond the fact that it’s mentally, physically and emotionally draining to be constantly engaged, it’s detrimental to our education. If my grades are slipping because I’m trying to take more credits than is reasonable, then I’m certainly not “getting my money’s worth” out of Whitman. I am, in fact, wasting my money. The long and the short of it is this: Overextension detracts from both my happiness and my education, and I think that’s worth considering for everyone. Of course everyone is different and of course everyone needs different levels of intellectual stimulation. All I’m saying is that the group mentality at Whitman seems to be that we need to do more, even if ‘more’ means too much. And that’s a bad thing.