It is very common, especially at this point in the term, to hear Lawrentians mutter “I am so busy.” Between school commitments, music responsibilities, athletics, clubs and whatever else we decide to do, many of us seem to be in a constant state of busyness. Stress is inevitable during our college years, for better or for worse. However, we should always ask ourselves whether this busyness a self-imposed state. Are we really as busy as we say we are? And if when we are so busy, do we actually need to be?
Considering the unique size of the Lawrence student body, it’s no surprise that we tend to accept such burdens. Since we expect a similar variety and quantity of opportunities—both academic and extracurricular—out of our Lawrence experience, everyone must take participate in many areas. This phenomenon is mathematical; to keep our exciting and stimulating school running on fewer people, each person must take on a greater load.
In larger schools, there may be more pressure to declare a major or join a college (i.e. College of Sciences, College of Communications, etc.). Especially because of our love for the liberal arts, we pick and choose from multiple academic areas, perhaps by pursuing a self-designed major or a dual-degree. There is a dangerous line here between spreading ourselves out and spreading ourselves thin. The new overload fee provides a valuable check on this sort of excess, since we can, and should, only do so much with our academic paths.
Excessive busyness probably also arises from our highly motivated and intense academic culture. The learning environment at Lawrence is certainly not cutthroat; nonetheless, we all recognize the competitive element in our declarations of stress. The mental jump from “I am so busy” to “I am busier than you” is sometimes frighteningly easy to make. Competing against our expectations of ourselves is highly productive, but outbidding each other in the credits we take on and the stress we endure can be highly dysfunctional. The key to productive busyness lies in recognizing the difference.
After all, we came to Lawrence expecting four years of intense personal growth; we wanted to get our butts kicked before we could snag that diploma. And to a certain extent, that busyness can feel great; researchers at the University of Chicago told ABC in 2010 that “Busy people are happier than idle people,” following a study conducted on college students. When we push ourselves to choose lifestyles of delayed gratification and consistent motivation, the rewards can be psychologically heightened.
By staying busy, we can embody Lawrence’s liberal arts ideals and exceed our own expectations for personal growth. On the other hand, our predictions for busyness can arise from dysfunctional motivations and harm our psychological well-being. We cannot just say “I am so busy”—we absolutely must understand the reasons and consequences for our busy lifestyles.