It’s that time of year again — the onslaught of Insomnia Cookies and recruitment season. Yes, the Extracurricular Bazaar may have just ended, but the buzz of student organizations eager to recruit is just beginning. Take a stroll around Old Campus and you’ll easily spot an eager group of students ready to offer their “elevator pitch” about why you, a passerby, should definitely come to their information session.
Uncoincidentally, this is also the time of year when calendars begin to burst with color. During my first year at Yale, this was the season when my afternoons became filled with coffee chats that dragged into dinner meetings and evening information sessions. Sophomore year wasn’t much different, but rather than being on the receiving end, I was situated at the opposite side of the table, sharing the extent of my adoration for Community Health Educators or the Yale College Council.
While overwhelming, the recruitment phase will inevitably begin to slow. Soon enough, service organizations will have dedicated new volunteers, a capella groups will showcase spectacular new talent and publications will have writers eager to see their name in print. What doesn’t end, however, is the constant barrage of events vying for a spot on our calendars. Information sessions will become weekly Sunday morning meetings, coffee chats will become regular Friday afternoon shifts and auditions will become recurring Wednesday night practices.
For some, but not all of us, it is in our nature to dive headfirst into the fray of it all. Yet, as classes and homework begin to pick up pace and take their rightful place in our lives, we will be forced to carve out time for ourselves in the little space that is left. Looking back on my time at Yale, I am startled by how easily and rapidly my weekends morphed into “scheduling opportunities” as opposed to time for rest and recovery. As my weekday afternoons and evenings were gobbled up by problem sets, essays, readings and reading responses, I became increasingly reliant on the precious time that the weekend allotted to squeeze in additional meetings, avoiding scheduling conflicts that would likely arise otherwise. Before long, my weekend had just become a mere extension of the weekdays.
My moment of clarity came this summer, when I received the following tidbit of advice: Figure out what moments in life you cherish — what genuinely matters to you. Once you know what these are, hold onto them as tight as you can, and do not let anyone take them away.
The suggestion had come in the context of a future work-life balance. But to me, it felt 10 times more applicable to my life at Yale. Eating, sleeping and living at school inevitably blurs the lines between “work” and “home.” Constantly being on campus makes it all too easy to be constantly available. Unfortunately, this also makes blurs the boundaries between our daily obligations and our personal time. It always begins with small sacrifices — ceasing to call home on Tuesday nights because it’s not a “valid” reason to reschedule a study session, or putting off date night to attend a club meeting.
It’s not that our extracurriculars, meetings and homework aren’t important. Regardless of what we are involved with, each of our commitments brings value to our lives and probably the lives of those around us. But that is precisely the point. We will always be doing worthwhile work; it’s never going to become less “valid” of a reason to put off the personal — not when the semester ends, not when we graduate. Shoved between all these roles and responsibilities, cherished little moments can get shuffled around, eternally labeled with an “I’ll deal with it later” sticker. The issue is that it’s unsustainable to put these small but invaluable parts of our lives on hold; it will slowly and surely erode us in ways we may not even notice.
Carving out time for little moments doesn’t need to be grandiose. It can be a phone call home on Tuesdays, a date night on Saturdays, your daily hour in the gym or a weekly movie night with friends. Whatever it is that brings light to your life, find it and hold it close. Fight for it. If someone asks to schedule over it, don’t give in and silently shuffle it to some ambiguous time in the future that may not even exist.
Yale needs a culture that values moments like these, little treasures that are worth fighting for. Time to read. Time to work out. Time to connect with family. Time with your partner. Time to be alone. Yale is a hectic place, and I promise that one day, someone will, probably unintentionally, encroach on these precious moments. And when this time comes, I hope that we value ourselves enough to stand up for our own happiness, even when it seems small relative to the roles and responsibilities that life relentlessly piles on our plate.
When faced with the decision of what to prioritize in life, I hope we remember that the little things aren’t so little after all.
Aiden Lee is a junior in Pauli Murray College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .