The onslaught began before I stepped foot on campus. The postscripts to a handful of clubs’ welcome back emails read out in manic colorful letters, messages of commiseration at how inactive our calendars have been.
“We know how excited you are to get your GCals up and running again,” one read, “so here are some of our important dates for the next month so you can stay up on it!”
It’s not just in emails, either. Messages from GroupMe and Slack chats invariably end with a closing, “make sure you mark it down in your calendars!”
On the surface, our obsession with GCal-ing betrays our obsession with order. Unintentionally, though, these scheduling habits typically give us over to wild spates of disorder and anxiety. See, obsessive GCal-ing done right by Yale standards requires us to splay our lives onto a sea of colorful blocks on a virtual grid. After enough time, in an attempt to bring order to our disordered calendars (“Maybe it’s smarter to be scheduled at only one meeting at 11:04:41am”; “Wait, but would that make me, like, soft?”) we’ll need to prune our GCals.
This meta-scheduling of our every sensation is senseless and does nothing but place the act of ordering itself at the surface of our conscience, giving it more and more of our mental real estate and spreading us too thin in the process.
A good friend of mine who graduated from Yale College last year would always tell me how much he hated this GCal-ing sensation that seems to grip Yale students by the scruff of their necks. He never used his GCal and would go so far as to say that anything you need to rely on a calendar to remember is probably not worth remembering at all.
The problem seems to be much more about the neurotic nature of our scheduling habits than it does about what we deem worth remembering. The truth of the matter is that the majority of students who schedule away so much of their time do so merely because they have it to give away. We GCal as sport now because it makes us feel as though we’re ahead of the curve — like we’re winning at some kind of all-out competition.
The problem of obsessive scheduling also comes from the increasing feeling that one must be as involved as possible in campus activities — and this problem is hardly particular to Yale.
Craig Lambert’s “Nonstop” talks about a string of Harvard polymaths who, on paper, are all unbelievable students and people, but in reality all feel unfulfilled in some way. Becky Cooper, for instance, is an overachieving, gets-involved-in-everything kind of student who quite literally did not have time to go to sleep, what with her commitments and school work. She reflected that there was little time for her to examine “who she is or what she wants.”
This is the very type of self-discovery that a liberal arts education helps secure for everyone. And it is, ironically, those very introspective questions — left largely unanswered for most neurotic GCalers — that ought to inform what kind of toil we devote our GCals to.
The GCal-ing sensation is frenetic and is almost always done with an eye to one’s resume. To that end, it’s rare to find a scrupulous scheduler who doesn’t have a sense of what stands in the way of their professional goals.
But the most insidious part of neurotically GCal-ing one’s life away is that no room is ever left for one’s imagination. When every moment is accounted for, we whittle away at opportunities for the absurd and the spontaneous. Capricious moments, by definition, cannot have time allotted for in our GCals, and yet such moments may still be some of the best of our lives — and some of the only that can change what we wish to do with the rest of our hyperscheduled lives.
In place of these moments, we scramble from mediocre engagement to mediocre engagement, scheduling them all like our lives are one long string of McKinsey and Bain coffee chats that we just can’t afford to miss.
We have the rest of our lives to be midlevel bureaucrats. For Pete’s sake, let’s not start now.
Ultimately, GCal-ing, like obscure networking opportunities and the push for more preprofessional majors, is next in the pecking order of things others are doing that make onlookers feel left behind.
And when Yale students feel left behind, they chomp at the bit to get caught up. That’s the last thing a group of 6,000 college students need at the beginning of this school year.
Sammy Landino is a sophomore in Hopper College. His column runs on alternate Thursdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .