There is something you should be doing right now that is more important than this.
At this point of the semester, I tend to fall into a frame of mind that measures up all my decisions and actions against each other. Every action feels minute when put under this scrutiny, and I feel then more than ever the urgency in my thought. Get out of bed (there’s something), take a shower (you should be doing right now), eat (that is), brush teeth (more important than this).
In these moments, I feel tasked with being meaningful all the time. Social life, play, and boredom become superfluous, and get written out of my cluttered schedule.
It’s easy to get caught into thinking that everything you do ought to be for the end result, and it’s easy to feel guilty when your behaviour doesn’t help propel you to some singular, desired outcome. In this frame of mind — when you might engage in the act of “sleep math” (the strategic cutting-out of morning rituals like breakfast or a shower for a few more minutes of much-needed sleep) — spending an evening at Captain’s Cabin dancing to music from a local band whose guitarist is dressed up as a banana feels like a waste of time. Twenty minutes of lying down and staring at a ceiling seems absurd.
As a university student, it’s difficult to make time for yourself. Due dates and study notes get all the more imposing as November comes around, and the negotiations and trade-offs of sleep math become applicable to more than just sleep.
But it’s essential to preserve some meaninglessness in your life. Play gives you the space to compete and experiment without the risk of failure. Socializing has been correlated to higher mental resilience, and provides a sense of personal and social grounding that is very much required when things get demanding.
The thing about meaninglessness is that it’s never entirely meaningless. Going to a music show or staring at a ceiling might seem so when you consider pencilling it in between work and schoolwork, because at the start, it doesn’t fit with the plan.
Weighing out the value of every experience requires you to already know those values. Yes, if it’s the night before the final, you should probably study and not watch a movie. But try not to develop a total aversion to what could be perceived as meaninglessness. Otherwise, you only work with the things that are most familiar and useful to you, and you deny yourself an important dimension of personal growth, the kind that’s sparked by happenstance.
Last week, I shaved. Before that, I went for a run; after, I had a beer. I probably spent two hours on things that I would more or less write off at this time of semester. I didn’t pencil those hours in or make mental negotiations. Sometimes I felt like there were more important things that could be happening, but I didn’t rush. It feels good to have a place for “meaninglessness” in one’s life.
I lied down on the floor and stared at the ceiling.
The world didn’t end, and I felt alright.