It’s safe to say Elon University brings to mind a specific kind of person — typically someone way over-involved, over-committed and who responds to the question, “How are you?” with “You know … I’m alive. Surviving.”
“I’m alive”? I’m sorry, but when did “I’m alive” become an acceptable response? When did “surviving” become the new “I’m fine”?
Our undergraduate years are supposed to be some of the best of our lives. That’s not to say being involved and a part of various organizations is a bad thing, but it’s when you’re “surviving” and not “thriving” that you have to step back and realize, “Huh. You know, maybe something isn’t entirely right here.”
You could say I recently had this moment of self-realization. I realized that every time someone asked me how I’m doing, I responded with, “Oh, you know, — I’m not dead, so it could be worse,” and then sped off to whatever meeting, class or activity I had next in my more-disorganized-than-an-episode-of-Hoarders planner.
I stopped using words such as “great,” “well” or even “good” to describe my general well-being. Yeah, that’s an issue. Then I realized I was consistently going through each day on fewer than five hours of sleep. Then, even worse, I realized I couldn’t even feel bad about it because everyone else I know is going through the exact same thing.
Most people I know are running around nonstop from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. before even getting the chance to start their homework — then they stay up another three hours to finish said homework. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
More often than not, I’m up until 2 or 3 a.m. sitting on my bed doing work, hearing doors around my hall open and close. It was during one of those times when I had my first — and most likely not my last — breakdown.
I’ve broken down an unreasonable amount of times throughout just the first month of this semester because of the weight of all the items I have to check off my to-do list and the little amount of time I have to complete them. It doesn’t help that my ukulele sits in a corner of my room, sadly untouched for a few weeks now.
I have officially crossed that line where I can’t even do the things I love because I simply don’t have time. For me, this means I don’t have time to play the new song I learned on my ukulele or try out the new PS4 game that I’ve been waiting for since last summer. One of my best friends constantly tells me to practice self-care, and every time I tell him I will, but then I don’t because — say it with me now — I don’t have time.
If you’re the kind of person who excels with zero free time and a full calendar, I applaud you and I envy you. It’s fine to stay busy. I encourage you to stay busy — but if you find yourself unable to do the things you love, that make you happy, do yourself a favor and take a moment to yourself to really think. If you find yourself responding, “I’m surviving,” to every person who asks about your well-being, really take a moment to reflect. And if you feel like you have to remind yourself to just sit there and breathe for a moment, please take that moment and breathe.
For lack of a better term, we are in our prime — our golden days, the ones we’re going to look back on in 50 years and say, “Oh man, those were the days.”
It shouldn’t be the norm to remain in a constant state of chaos and misery. It shouldn’t be the norm to have nervous breakdowns every other day because we feel consistently overwhelmed. Whether that be organizations, favors for friends, class load, preparing for the future, the to-do list you have that resembles a hydra more than it does a list — in the sense that you seem to have to add two items for every one you check off — just remember, you can say no.
Yes, your activities, classes, friends, organizations and commitments are important, but so is your own mental health. If you feel in any way that your mental health is in danger, take a moment and reflect. Practice self-care, do the things you love, learn to say no. Let’s stop surviving. Let’s actually thrive.