It always starts in a dining hall, when you catch the eye of a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. You actually want to see them, so you suggest hanging out. Instinctively, you both whip out your Google Calendars, or “GCals.” Your calendar is a rainbow of events: meals, speakers, club meetings, sections, classes. You and your friend parse through your respective calendars, listing out free slots of time. Inevitably, it doesn’t work out. You promise each other that you’ll grab a meal next week, next month, next semester. You’ll replay this scenario over and over, until it’s practically second nature.
While I’m the first to admit that GCal has saved me from missing many a meeting or section, there are harmful consequences in prizing the overscheduled life. Yalies check their GCal as much as social media, if not more. Similar to the sentiment regarding numbers of likes and followers on social media, the prevailing attitude regarding calendars is that the more, the better. Yalies love to complain about how busy they are. It’s a source of pride, a signifier that you are accomplished and important. But should we glorify this lifestyle?
The hyperscheduled life is useful in helping us achieve the Yale definition of “success,” which is often career-oriented. To some degree, it makes sense: To get into Yale, students prioritized academic success. College is an expensive investment and students want returns, which is often materialized through job prospects. The GCal encourages us to fill up our time with “productivity.” With this mindset, each unscheduled hour feels as if it is setting us further back from our goals. Time for rest begins to feel stressful, as it feels more like wasted time than anything else. We begin to feel the need to justify breaks, saying, “I worked for x hours today, I think I can relax,” or “I’ll take a break now so that I’ll be more efficient later.” The mindset of hyperproductivity seeps into all corners of our lives, even defining the ways that we rest and socialize in terms of maximizing efficiency. The problem is, however, that there are important aspects of life that the GCal inevitably misses.
One of those is relationships. “Our workaholic culture means that we treat friendship and social lives like homework — how can we get it done efficiently, maximizing our returns? The problem is that real life doesn’t work like our classes. Worthwhile pursuits, such as relationships, take time and energy that may feel unproductive for hours or days or even weeks, but build into something more meaningful than any class. Friendship isn’t just a “time slot” in a busy day, a task to check off so that you can continue on with work. It entails being there for others, even when it’s inconvenient. Never again will we be surrounded by so many interesting, intelligent and kind individuals who all live and study together. We should take advantage of that.
Besides, the beauty of life often emerges in spontaneity. When did it become lazy just to relax? We’re pressured always to plan things out, even our “free time.” But this eliminates some of the best parts of college. How can you fully engage in life-changing conversations that stretch out for hours without worrying about your next scheduled event? How can you spot a flyer for a fascinating speaker and immediately decide that you’ll go, right then and there? Certainly, it’s good to have a calendar so that you can make sure you attend important events. But having free time doesn’t mean that you’re lazy. In fact, maybe you’ll make memories that you’ll actually remember and cherish. Some of the best memories I have made at Yale have been random, poorly planned and even have led to some later stress, but they were worth it — swimming at Lighthouse Point beach one October weeknight, exploring New York City with friends on a Wednesday, going to listen to a conservative speaker whose viewpoints I disagreed with on a whim, painting in the Good Life Center and more.
You don’t even need to do something drastic. Heading to the art museum after class instead of going to your everyday coffee shop perch could be the first step. Scheduling our lives might enable to us to be productive in a traditional sense. But when you look back on your college years, I can assure you that you’ll remember the feeling of wading into moonlit water at midnight, getting a cartilage piercing in New York on a whim, and finger-painting a “Picasso” piece instead of doing your CS homework more than anything else. After all, a beautiful life is one composed of a series of random, poorly planned moments.
Rabhya Mehrotra is a first year in Pauli Murray College. Contact her at email@example.com .