Literally everyone I know right now has a lot on their plate. Most of them are also students, some of them are recent graduates. I can’t speak to the experiences of all my colleagues and friends, but here’s what’s on my plate at the moment: I’m in the middle of moving, am holding a job at which I’ve recently taken on additional responsibility, I’m working on translating a book, volunteering at a local school, and am currently studying as well.
Recently, I quit one of the two part-time jobs I was holding in order to leave some time for myself. It was, admittedly, a difficult decision. But why was it difficult? Look at any of the people around you and I’m sure you’ll notice that many of us measure our success in terms of volume: not whether we’re accomplishing something, but how much or how many things we’re accomplishing.
The most important advice I’ve heard in the past year came from a friend and co-worker: he stressed that working is important, and that doing more is always a goal we should have, but only if we can manage to stagger our added responsibilities.
Like lifting weights, our responsibilities can all be managed. However, if you walk up to the bench for the first time, and attempt to lift 350 pounds, of course you’ll fail. But (and here’s the important part) is it really failure? Perhaps insofar as your set goal is concerned, but the failure does not come in the unsuccessful attempt at lifting such a weight, only in the planning. The kitschy Einstein quote about judging fish says it all, but we cannot forget to push beyond our boundaries.
What does this mean?
It means that whatever you’re doing right now, however many things you’re doing, you can do more. You can do more. Should you? Make no mistake, the glorification of being busy has its roots in the ideology of work ingrained into us by a society focused on products, on productivity. Our utility does connect to who we are, and it does connect to our self-value, but as the semester-end crunch beings to wind up, and as you find yourself stressed, recognize that stress is useful, but just as useful is to think about whether you’re stretching yourself too thin.
We place an irrational amount of focus on progress and utility in our society. That much is clear. As university students, it behooves us to remember to apply ourselves intently in all our endeavours, but if you find yourself thinking that you’re in over your head, take a step back, look at your situation, and balance your own goals with your current state. Whether or not you believe that you’re succeeding at the moment, think about the reason behind your involvement in any activity, and proceed consciously with that context in mind, even if only a bit at a time.
A small step is still a step; take it. Once you have, take another.