It’s that time of the year again, the mid-semester grind: endless late nights, copious amounts of caffeine and worst of all, the academic and social burdens of college—weightier even than the crushing anvil on Wile E. Coyote’s head.
And when it comes to campus events, highly-touted by their proponents, I assume the internal monologue goes something like this: “I barely even have time to microwave myself a Hot Pocket for dinner. How am I supposed to attend an hour-long discussion about racial inequities?’”
There’s no easy answer. And worse, we’re looked down upon by activists and those of socially-aware backgrounds when we don’t attend these events, like we’re not doing our part to—if you’ll forgive the cliché—make the world a better place. It makes us feel inadequate, as if the roadrunner is zooming by and here we are, racing hopelessly to catch up.
It’s no surprise, then, that this weekend I found myself throwing my hands up in defeat, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of events that all socially conscious students were expected to attend. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
But part of becoming an adult and growing and learning in college is developing the ability to make decisions for yourself, and more importantly, understanding that those decisions have consequences. We have time, but where and how we choose to spend it is completely up to us, as long as we can accept what comes of it. In the case of this weekend, I did just that.
So how do we balance things we need to get done with things that will change our perspectives or help someone in need? First, we have to recognize and accept the fact that as college students, the world around us is pliable and therefore deserving of attention.
We cannot ignore the fact that although we are busy, we must find the time, as socially responsible adults, to be aware of the problems of our society and more importantly, get our hands dirty and shape it into something better. We don’t need the guilt trip. We will take responsibility ourselves.
The tougher item to balance, then, is ensuring that we have enough time to take care of our academic responsibilities and our responsibilities to ourselves (that is showering, eating, etc.). Doubtless, this will entail sacrificing some time that could be spent at events and discussions, since our school seems to host an endless amount of them.
The key is picking our battles wisely. I took the idea from the late Sally Ride, the first woman in space, who passed away this summer. She was a strong supporter of science and for these reasons, founded Sally Ride Science. But after her death, she had a coming out of sorts and the world was informed that she was a lesbian. While some admonished her for keeping this information a secret, because she could have been a huge proponent for civil rights, I admired her courage in her decision to fight for what was most important to her, despite the sacrifice she made to do so.
We simply can’t have it all, and we can’t do it all. So there’s no need to feel guilty or to make others feel guilty for being unable to attend a campus event. We just have to do what we can, when we can and pick our battles wisely. If it’s our job to shape the future of the world, we might as well shape the parts that are the most important to us. If we can all accept that, perhaps it will add some sanity to this otherwise hectic time in our lives and allow for at least some inner peace.