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(Yasmina Martin)–– If you ask someone on this campus the ever-loaded question “How are you?” they will respond with two answers: “Tired” or “Busy.” Our days are crammed with classes, club meetings and weekly events, transforming short Val sits into grateful respites from our too-busy realities. Even then, our hands are glued to smart phones, attached to the book we have to read for our next class or buried in newspapers-and if we don’t use every second of our time wisely, squeezing the juice out of every single moment of every single day, we experience that unshakable feeling that we’re wasting precious time. Before we know it, it’s 10 P.M and the Word document is still blank. The hours we’ve stayed up become part of our bragging rights and get pseudo-celebrated in Facebook statuses that seem to scream, “I don’t know how late you’re staying up but I’m staying up later.” But how often do we recall John Lennon’s words, “The time you spent wasting was not wasted?”
Such is the life of a liberal arts college student.
From birth we’re trained to work hard to stick to the schedules that others make for us: teachers, coaches, and parents. Time should not be wasted; it should be filled with enriching activities like selling Girl Scout cookies, cleaning up the community park or playing in a soccer tournament. Time becomes a commodity. As we go through the hoops of elementary school and middle school, our recess time begins to shrink drastically and we have fewer opportunities to exert pent-up energy and satisfy our need for exploration and adventure. By 8th grade, my recess had become a short 15-minute chatting period on the blacktop. The soccer balls, jump ropes, and hula-hoops of yore had long disappeared. Do you remember the blacktop jump rope rhymes? “Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss her fella.”
In “The Busy Trap,” Tim Kreider criticizes a recent and growing mindset that allows people to fall into a hamster wheel of activities only to keep their schedule packed. When they are invited out to certain events, they reply with the ubiquitous, “I’m too busy.” He doesn’t include those who have to be continually busy in order to get by; instead, he attacks the perceived busyness that has become chronic among college students and professionals alike. Sometimes I wonder how many of us are busy just for the sake of being busy, to feel as if we’re using all of our time efficiently. Imagine if we had the opposite problem. Imagine if we had to take a break from idleness to do work (oh, what a life.) Because what Kreider argues is that people are incredibly busy without being productive, but that it’s possible to be productive without having each time slot filled up by a different activity.
Maybe what we need is an Amherst College field day. Every fall for over a century, Mount Holyoke’s president has randomly announced an annual “Mountain Day” when classes are cancelled and students take part in outdoor activities like hiking. Social networks are abuzz with speculations about when Mountain Day will occur, tracked with the hashtag #MtnDay, and alumnae return to celebrate with ice cream socials.
Take Mount Holyoke’s Mountain Day, add some hula hoop competitions, sack races, and tie-dyed t-shirts, mix in a huge helping of faculty, student, and staff involvement, and you’ve got yourself an okay antidote to the busy trap crisis. This is not a push for “campus unity” or to “bring together our divided campus,” that’s going to take much more than one day of work, an empty campaign promise or a “Community Hour” twice a semester. But for the sake of our mental and physical health, for the sake of our tired selves, let’s take a break. Once we’re less afraid to waste time, maybe we can actually begin to make a community out of this place.