As a freshman, I was told to enroll in 16 credits, sign up for a growth group, volunteer, be an active member of my hall and hold a job. Before that, during orientation week, we were required to stay busy. We were shuttled around to church and community projects, events and meals and more events. We had to stay busy, or else we would lie in our rooms and desperately miss home. We had to stay busy that week to distract ourselves from our feelings.
But it didn’t end there. We stayed busy. We committed to more things, received more titles. Our email signature grew, our list of acquaintances expanded, our planners filled up and we became “important.”
When our parents came to visit, they were impressed with the knowledge we had about campus, the amount of people we knew, the list of activities we were involved in. We felt worth.
We felt worth when we rushed into a meeting three minutes late because we were just at another meeting that ran long. We felt worth when we had dinner plans for every night of the week. We felt worth when we woke up with eight new emails.
Where does my self-worth lie? Does it lie in the titles I receive? The amount of people that say hello to me on the quad?
I have to wonder, how is busyness any different than any other mind-altering drug? What would happen if all of our activities disappeared? We would have to face ourselves. We would have to think the thoughts that we hold at arms length. We would have to sit with that strange and sad feeling that comes when we’re alone and quiet.
Some people distract themselves from their feelings by drinking, others with drugs, some with food or Pinterest or running. Other people stay busy. Most of these are good in moderation, but anything in excess makes us sick. Excessive busyness is a drug that JBU students are addicted to. We are afraid to feel pain and loss and loneliness, these things that are inevitable pieces of the human condition.
We book ourselves solid from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. so that at midnight we can fall into bed and immediately fall asleep. We are so exhausted that we don’t have to lay there in the dark and stare at the ceiling and think.
So what kind of future do we have if we continue holding this busy schedule? At what point will our busyness end? When you move to a new city with no friends and no plans and no commitments, what will you fill yourself with? Will you take care of yourself?
I lived the fast and busy life my freshman year and half of my sophomore year. Then I hit the lowest point in my life and didn’t come back the same person. I am changed. I have learned that my importance and worth doesn’t come from my resume, activities or titles. I am taking care of myself and the people around me.
I’ve seen the same thing happen to other people: their parents die or they are admitted to the hospital or they have a mental break. These things shake us awake, put our lives in perspective and reframe our priorities. What if we didn’t wait for the traumatic or rock bottom, though? Could we choose to slow our lives down, to enjoy those around us, to recognize our innate worth right now?
Gies is a senior majoring in graphic design. She can be reached at GiesMM@jbu.edu.