As I think I’ve discussed before in my column – though they do all start to run together at a certain point – I am getting better and better at admitting that I used to be an overachiever, and still hold plenty of those tendencies. Truly, the forced removal from society from the initial COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 is the only thing that made me reevaluate how I was spending my time. I struggled to see the point of my busy lifestyle. If so much of the world could seemingly fall apart so quickly, why did it matter if I spent most of my day in class, most of my evening in extracurriculars and then much of the night doing homework? I had little room left in the day for sleep or basic maintenance of my life. It went beyond just an unhealthy way to live – it exhausted me to the point of no return most days.
Thankfully, I can confidently say I have relaxed a tad. I don’t do quite as much and I’m happy about that. The fact that it took me so long to chill out might not be surprising, but it is certainly a little disappointing. I clearly remember sitting in my high school AP Language and Composition class, analyzing a political cartoon about the rat race of life. My teacher was trying – with minimal success – to explain to us the concept without painting an entirely bleak picture of our futures. It all felt so weirdly dystopian. If I was 16 years old then, with a teacher explaining to me that I would always be sprinting ahead without even a jogging break, what did I really have to look forward to in the future? In hindsight, this revelation is nothing new, though it should have made me slow down a little sooner than I did.
I can’t even say nowadays that I am not a busy person or that I am a completely reformed overachiever with a lot of down time. In all the things I do, I am always looking months or even years ahead of where I currently am. For example, I might get into one class that I have been excited to take since my freshman year and immediately look into what the class is a prerequisite for and the subsequent classes it will allow me to take next semester. I gain one position and instantly am already looking past it, trying to see where I’m heading next. I never give myself a second to breathe. Even others involved in similar organizations or courses of study will continually ask what I’m looking at next without acknowledgement for my current state of affairs. I’m always running the rat race, looking where I’m going and completely missing my current surroundings as I sprint by. As of late this has been extremely frustrating.
It’s good to look ahead in life. Having a vague idea of where you’d like to end up by the end of this chaotic form of existence is beneficial. Plans are good. General future plans can give one direction, and humans as a species love a sense of purpose. But when you are always looking forward you never end up taking a second to stop and appreciate where you are and where you’ve come from. It’s exhausting.
Literally and metaphorically we cannot run infinitely. The treadmill won’t stop unless you take the time to stop running for a second. The race will just continue. You will exhaust all of your energy and resources if you don’t sometimes rest and appreciate the work you’ve put in thus far.
There is nothing wrong with a lack of progression when you’re happy with where you are. Not everything has to be a means to an end. It’s difficult to find a college student that isn’t burnt out – why do we propel this cycle forward by never taking a second to breathe? Some things can wait just a little bit longer.