We see it all the time here, in the land of acorns and squirrels: a peer sports a backpack covered in pins and buttons boasting their heinous spread of campus involvement, including SPARKS, SGA, 110 percent sorority allegiance, SUB, Club Soccer — you get the gist — and drops it down on the seat next to you in your 2:20 class. Then they bore the student on the other side of them with a conversation you know all too well:
“Ugh, I didn’t even have time to eat lunch today. I had stagecraft, then Science Without Borders, then English 110 and had three meetings in between each...”
To which the student adjacent to them replies:
“Well, I bet you got enough sleep last night. I was up until 3 a.m. writing a paper I saved until the last minute, then I had to be up at 6 a.m. for an a cappella rehearsal...”
But student No. 1 wasn’t done:
“...class, and then I had to submit six research papers and the dog I have been training for my neuroscience project peed on my sandwich...”
And then both of them cut off their rants because you’ve pulled out all of your hair in fury and passed out because of the pain. This is the effect that busy-bragging has on the likely just as busy, but millions of times more modest, people around you. It’s petty and unnecessary, and at large here at Elon University.
It all stems back to a phenomenon that the student-written website, Study Breaks, calls “competitive complaining,” in which students that worked hard to attend a challenging university feel the constant need to voice their heaps of commitments, involvements and responsibilities to measure their progress against everyone else’s, demonstrate their worth and — here’s where I wish I didn’t assume the worst intention of my peers, but unfortunately find myself doing just that — prove to their fellow students that they’re better than them simply because they’ve filled their schedules more.
This is phenomenon exemplified in phrases such as, “You only got five hours of sleep last night? Lucky, I got two!” and, “How have you only had one coffee today? I’ve had three and it’s only 11:30 a.m.”
And to these people, I have some points for you to consider.
First: If you’re really not getting that much sleep, you’re screwed — sleep is genuinely the most important thing for your body. Tell me how glad you are that you stayed up to edit your resumé when you’re having hallucinations because of lack of rest.
Second: If your commitments are so important and worthy of your every second, where do you find the time to sit and whine about them to someone you barely know?
And, third: You’re in college now, so it’s time you got a clue. People don’t care about the volumes of things on your plate — real worth is determined from the kind of work you do in depth rather than breadth. No one cares if you belonged to 40 clubs and showed your face in a meeting of each once a semester, but rather about the two organizations you poured your heart into and developed an incredible set of skills from.
People care about the things that you found your passion in, how they shaped you, and the better person you are because of them. You’d be hard-pressed to find an employer in the real world that cares that you slept a total of 16 hours in your junior year of college because you were busy handing out flyers for organizations you just joined for the gold star on your resume. If you can’t even care for your own sleep cycle, how can they trust you with a career?
So, the real nugget of wisdom I have is this: Calm down, peers. You don’t need to go around trying to impress and put down the other students in your class just to feel better about yourself. And, truth be told, the only way you could possibly feel better would be if you ate a snack and took a nap.
Trust me, you want to.