Two weeks ago, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, a fraternity treasurer and math wizard, hung himself. He’s the second student to commit suicide at UPenn in three weeks. While we will never know for sure the reason behind their deaths, news agencies are reporting that they were because they felt that they couldn’t handle the pressure from workload.
While cases of students abandoning their lives due to workload pressure are not as prevalent at the Claremont Colleges, it is not something that you would want to become aware of only after it happens – it is better to stop it from happening altogether.
When it comes to sleeping, we all know the deal — go to bed after midnight and sleep fewer than seven hours a day. Last week, MIT published a survey on the average time that MIT students spend sleeping. While the numbers differ by major and school year, only 15.3% of undergraduate students are asleep by midnight. If we consider the greater amount of sleep we tend to get during the weekend, most students sleep an average of 6.5 hours every day. The survey may have been taken at MIT, but if there were a survey taken at Claremont the situation probably wouldn’t be much better.
We are students from a top-tier college, yes; we have been among the best of our peers for all our lives, yes; but what does all that mean?
It means that we are surrounded by overachievers and overwhelmed by the desire to win. I know people who take five classes, work two jobs, attend three clubs and keep 4.0 GPAs. I know people who have just submitted their fifteenth internship applications for this year.
It means that we are constantly motivated to challenge ourselves, not just because we want to do it, but because it’s what what we’ve known, and are told to do all our lives, and falling back to a normal routine scares us. It makes us feel mediocre.
It is reported that nearly half of all college students say they felt so depressed that they found it hard to function in the past school year. Faced with the potential for success and full of hopes for future, students are burdening themselves with pressures and responsibilities that didn’t belong to them in the first place.
We have also been taught throughout all of our lives that we should feel proud to work harder than we actually should because our society rewards hardworking people. Everyone has heard of the maxim: “out of sleep, socializing and academics, you get to pick two.” Not sleeping and taking on more work then we can bear means, to some extent, that we become the cool kids who don’t miss out on much.
What we are missing out on is a healthy life.
Even though leadership and innovation are stressed at CMC and in society, we are also human beings. Even though we want to change the world, save the planet and feed the homeless, there’s no way to achieve all of our goals overnight. Of course, I’m not saying that we should not work hard and be ambitious – I’m all for it. I’m saying that we should think of ourselves not in terms of the fast food mentality that we have to be consumed now or will lose our value forever, but long-term assets whose value to the society will be maximized through time.
You know the answer very well deep down: stop cramming your schedule with countless meetings, clubs, and work; leave a few hours every day for the gym, music, books, fun PE classes – life in general. Map out a big plan for yourself and carry it out slowly, step by step. As far as I know, you don’t miss out on much by being a healthy and happy person.