As a college student in her final year, I had bucket list goals. There was a frenzy of doing everything in the last year of graduation. I let the frenzy take over me, and as a result, I was working with two student publications, was a part of a college society and the editor of the department magazine. My day consisted of 16 hours of frantic working, 2 (or more) hours of commuting and then sleeping a paltry 4 hours.
This schedule of mine was so prominent especially in the last semester, with my droopy eyes and relentless grind, that people started calling me Superwoman. People were in awe of how I managed multi-tasking so well. I’d have loved this title at any other time, for it validated that I was really doing a great job. The student publications I was working with were both growing at an unprecedented pace; I was balancing college and my applications so well.
But it just felt so sad that somehow my work was defining me to such an extent that people hardly saw the person beyond that. I was being advised to be kinder to myself. I was being asked to slow down. I was like a car that needed to make a stop for petrol, but all I could think of was how less time I have with me before I graduate, so I just kept going. If I ran out of petrol, I used diesel, and in the end, I was running on my own, sucking my own reserves of energy. On the inside, I was broken. But obviously, I had to live up to my title of Superwoman, so I pretended to be strong for as long as I could.
This was till the straw that broke the camel’s back came into the picture. A friend asked me about the last time I was just living, and not thinking about an impending exam, or an event, or an article to be published. Sans any shame, I admitted that there wasn’t such a moment, not in the past couple of years anyway, because I enjoyed the process, met new people and had a ball. But I realised that my reserves will deplete soon if I don’t stop now. There’s nothing wrong in it per se, but I need to pause. I just need time for reflection. The highly underrated “me time.”
It was almost a leap of faith for me. Not doing anything? Not working? No deadline? Not utilising the day productively? But this was a good opportunity for me to learn a lesson in letting go. Here’s how I convinced myself through it:
1. The frenzy isn’t always worth it.
I have spent this entire time feeding off deadlines. Deadlines, frankly, kept me going. And I had always longed to be a part of this frenzy. But at times, I wondered if it would feel more satisfying to give more time to the less work?
The frenzy, the hum kept pushing me to work harder. I ended up churning out content and deals and events at an astonishing pace. But a couple years from now, it wouldn’t even matter. I would’ve learnt just the same without panic in the equation.
2. It spells the slaughter of your social life.
This is a given. When you’re keeping no time for recreation, your social life is bound to suffer. You’ll distance yourself from friends and chances are, your work buddies will be your only friends after a point.
3. It’s mostly just an excuse.
Crashing on deadlines, or trying desperately to keep your heads above water is more often than not just an excuse. Or even if it wasn’t an excuse to begin with, it becomes a genuine one, because you really end up with no time for other worthy pursuits that are not related to work.
4. Sleep-shaming just adds fuel to the fire.
What is our inexplicable obsession with being busy and compromising sleep? To me, nothing is more painful than the fact that having survived on 4 hours of sleep this year was a bragging right for me. Friends look up to me with awe and inspiration, wondering how I manage. They glamorised my all-nighters. The fact of the matter, however, is that we need to work like humans. There’s a reason why we have recommended sleep patterns.
5. Busy is not a feeling.
Here is the truth is its unaltered and bare form. The only feeling associated with a hectic schedule is anxiety and panic.
6. You can always change.
It is just a matter of letting go. It sounds easier than it really is. We could just start by changing our outlook. Like, I always say I’m having an adventurous semester rather than saying I have a busy semester. It helps to sail through.
7. The glorification of ‘busy’ needs to stop right away.
A balanced lifestyle should be glorified, not a busy one. A successful job is worth commendation, not a stressful one.
8. You miss out on opportunities.
When you have convinced the world that you’re busy and productively so, you miss out on opportunities. The worst part is you don’t feel guilty for this because keeping this in everyone’s knowledge somehow seems to validate it, while in reality, you burn out much before you can shine.
I started out in the most innocuous manner, just trying to keep myself busy, slowly taking up more tasks, eventually multi-tasking and working at breakneck speed sans much sleep. Now, I just need to pause. And maybe like me, a lot of college students do.