Opinion

Time to re-prioritize: Stop the glorification of being busy

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Cast your minds back to high school, a time when we were all busy working on our college applications. We used to toil like worker ants, scurrying around to squeeze in every extracurricular we could find and grinding away to make sure we scored the best we could on every test we took. 

Most of us were led to believe that college would be a place where we could do whatever we wanted, and on paper, students are free to explore themselves and do pretty much whatever they want. However, looking at the fine print, we see that things aren’t nearly as straightforward.

You see, we live in a society where our actions depend not only on our own expectations, but also those of people around us and people who came before us. When we see people around us taking 18 credits a semester, coping with four midterms in a week or listen to elders from our families discuss their efforts in their heyday, it creates a sense of guilt in us. It makes us question if we are doing enough. Sometimes, it even makes us wonder if we are being left behind. 

But why have we led ourselves to believe that busy equals good? Why have we turned college into a rat race? Even after breaking free from the shackles of high school, why are we still pigeonholed into the worker ant lifestyle?

The jump from high school to college is humongous. Whether the jump has been made from in-state or a country thousands of miles away, we are thrown out of our comfort zones and into a pressure cooker where we simmer with the brightest minds from around the world, each mind having different interests and capabilities. 

Humans — being social animals — are affected by the actions of those around. No matter how vehemently we argue that we are not affected by people around us, the truth is that we are often affected to such an extent that we lose sight of ourselves completely. All our years in high school were spent listening to family and teachers discussing the importance of hard work, and we were hard wired to believe that excessive hard work is good. They were most certainly right about the value of hard work, but when we lose sight of ourselves, we lose sight of our limits.

Imagine trying to fit size 12 feet in size nine shoes. It sounds painful, doesn't it? Working beyond our limits is essentially the same, but for our mind instead of our feet. 

The Stanford duck syndrome — where students are seen as ducks who appear to be wading through the water gracefully, but with feet paddling the water frantically — is well documented in a diverse and massive campus like UW-Madison. It is natural to feel like we might not be doing enough in such an environment, but it is important to remember that everyone has a different capacity for being busy. 

People coming from different backgrounds have different experiences that drive them to do different kinds and amounts of work. Trying to measure length with a weighing scale is futile, and so is measuring success in terms of someone else’s vision. 

It is important to step back and look at the bigger picture and our expectations from our own lives. Many have lost a lot in pursuit of someone else’s goal, some having gone so far as to lose their lives. 

It is therefore imperative to take the driver’s seat in our own lives, and not let our actions be dictated by society’s glorification of being busy. We must do what is needed for our idea of success and not what is needed for someone else’s vision of success.

From an individualist standpoint, we can keep the things listed above in mind to make sure we’ve got our own heads above the water, but we need more than that socially. We are all part of the society that affects us and impairs our vision, and the glorification of being busy isn’t new. 

Some cultures have historically valued honor and expect the youth to work hard to achieve success, which pressurizes individuals to be as busy as possible, even if it exceeds their own limits. If we worked to change things collectively, we would leave a lasting impression for future generations and right the wrongs of the past. It has been said that every great revolution starts with a single act of defiance, and by breaking the mold, our generation has the power to affect change. 

If we were to start glorifying loyalty, morals, respect and equality the way being busy has been glorified, we could exploit the loophole in human psychology to potentially fix some of the biggest issues that we currently face on a global scale. 

Anupras is a freshman studying Computer Science. Do you think young professionals and students glorify being overly busy? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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