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The art of taking it easy

Allie Tollaksen | Tuesday, September 24, 2013

“Sorry, I have four papers to write and six club meetings tonight, I can’t have dinner anymore.”
Though maybe a little exaggerated, this kind of apology is not uncommon here at Notre Dame. The idea we have to fill our days with activities and extra credits and research jobs and interhall sports teams and student government committees is widespread among campus. Somehow, it feels like all of my friends have full-time jobs on top of classes and a little “R&R” seems totally out of the question.
But I have to ask – why are we doing this? Sometimes I convince myself it’s because we’re passionate about so many things. We well-rounded individuals want it all; we’re Domers, of course we can do everything.
Other times, I’m convinced it’s for much more shallow reasons. Even as an adult, I find myself and others playing the “one-upping” game I remember being so prevalent in my middle school days. When a classmate or friend talks about how little sleep they got, you feel that sudden urge to explain you got even fewer hours of sleep, or maybe that you had the same work load but finished it faster, leaving time to enroll in another class or write a 10-page research proposal you’d “been thinking a little bit about.”
We Domers are competitive individuals. To feel like we’re keeping up with our peers, we’re going to bite off a sizable workload, maybe even a little more than we can chew. I just ask, for all of our sanity, that we think about relaxing. Schedule in some free time. Take a study break. Just say “no” to taking on another project. Pencil in a date with the University Counseling Center. Take a yoga class. Eat real meals with other humans. If we all agree to prioritize our mental and physical health a little more, to take it easy sometimes, maybe we won’t feel like we’re falling out of the competition – everyone’s doing it! It’s cool now!
Some of you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. Perhaps there are pockets of campus  where students are taking it easy and stopping to smell the roses. To those students: I congratulate and thank you. If there is anything I’ve learned this semester, it’s taking it easy is a lot harder than it looks. I haven’t mastered the art quite yet.  You students with free time and easygoing attitudes are trailblazers, possibly even campus heroes. I salute you.
To the rest of you overachievers, let’s make a commitment this semester. Not to another class or club or committee, but to ourselves. Take a little time off. Resist the urge to one-up your friends and instead appreciate the time with them. These four years are going to fly by (they have so far), so instead of filling every waking hour with resume-building activities and mountains of homework so you can outshine your classmates, think about inviting one of them to coffee instead. 

Contact Allie Tollaksen at      
atollaks@nd.edu
    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.