In middle school and high school, I was always the type of person who wanted to do the most. Join the most clubs, play multiple sports, have executive board positions, get all As. In college, being overwhelmed by moving to Boston and meeting new people every day, I decided to keep my commitments low. I would focus on my grades and join two organizations to keep me busy. This felt like an achievable balance, and if I wanted to take on more responsibility, then maybe I would later. But it seemed like everyone I knew was immediately taking on more responsibilities, and managing them.
Having responsibilities can be fun and satisfying because relaxing all the time can get pretty boring after a while (who needs that much time to think about the meaning of life?). This constant need to do more all the time is called hustle culture, and it can be exhausting to not only participate in it, but to be surrounded by it. Emerson is definitely an environment that encourages taking on an overbearing workload as the best way to succeed. It is important to remember a few things when everyone around you seems to be managing their persistently overloaded schedules.
Self-care comes in many forms, but, at a base level, it means to do what is best for you. A motto I try to follow is to put my best effort into a few activities, rather than split my attention among several activities. This helps me preserve a passion for my activities without feeling burdened by them. This year, on top of my classes, I stuck with Women in Motion, a club that supports women in the film industry, plus joined a writer’s group, and started writing for HerCampus when I felt I had time for another organization.
I marvel at my suitemates when I hear them talking about their productions and jobs and internship applications, on top of doing well in school. Recently, though, while I was reading before bed, my roommate said she was jealous of my “good habits.” “Making time” is a phrase that I have only recently begun to understand. Those words appear in almost every article or video about cycling a healthy habit into your daily routine. I used to think I didn’t have time for exercise or recreational reading or keeping up with my favorite shows. In reality, I have actually wasted a lot of time thinking about going outside for exercise, or wondering if I should take a break from my homework to watch TV, instead of just doing those things. Now, when I make my daily to-do lists, I include “go for a walk” or “watch Riverdale” as items that I need to get done, making them a daily priority. Honestly, it’s much less distracting simply doing these things than wishing I had time to do them.
Oftentimes I still feel like I am playing catch up, or that I am not doing enough. But I have learned that I only have my perception of how other people manage their workloads. I can only know and control what I do and how I manage my own stress. I know what work that I can reasonably take on, what my own priorities are, and what is ultimately best for me.