Checking in with friends from high school is always a little bit like conducting a social experiment. You ask them what their classes are like, what clubs they’re involved in, and just generally what they’ve been up to, and in the back of your mind, you make comparisons about your life at Boston College and theirs.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that BC is a lot different from other peer institutions. Just last week I was catching up with one of my closest friends from high school. When we spoke on the phone, I mentioned how anxious I was about my upcoming midterms and how I was choosing to stay in on Friday and Saturday night to prepare. Her jaw almost hit the floor. “I can’t believe you have that much work to do, I’ve never had to stay in like that before,” she responded.
Ouch. One minute I was feeling sorry for myself because I had so much work to get done, and the next I was envying my friend from highschool for being genuinely unfamiliar with my level of academic stress. To be blunt, I would argue that my underlying stress—a stress so consuming that I frequently choose to stay in during the weekends—is a symptom of a larger BC culture problem. Although the BC community prides itself on being a strong proponent of work hard, play hard culture, oftentimes “work hard” turns into something much more sinister. As a student body, we need to seriously evaluate how “work hard” has gone so wrong and what we need to do to fix it.
At BC, we take everything to the next level. In my experience as a student here, I have come across few people that don’t pour everything they have into academics and extracurriculars. Students here don’t just study for tests, they camp out in O’Neill for days on end. And don’t even get me started on clubs. It seems like everyone that I meet is either the president of this or on the e-board of that. As a student body, we have come to glamorize these behaviors, and as a result, cultivate a culture that encourages involvement to an unhealthy degree.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be a part of such a passionate student body, but sometimes, it gets overwhelming. When you’re constantly surrounded by overachievers, comparison naturally follows. And with comparison comes feelings of crippling inadequacy and the urge to “work harder,” which for me, means spending weekend nights with a textbook, instead of my friends. So, what happens when you combine feelings of inadequacy with the urge to “do more” academically and extracurricularly at the expense of your sanity? Burnout.
We have a serious burnout issue. And who could blame us? If you think about it, it’s a perfectly reasonable side effect for a student body that can’t seem to sit still. Looking around campus the past couple weeks, it has become overwhelmingly clear that we all need a break. Pre-class chatter has become eerily silent, the dining halls feel empty, everyone is simply just going through the motions. Personally, I have never needed a break from school more. Recently, I have found myself daydreaming about Thanksgiving dinner and sitting on my worn-in-all-the-right-places living room couch.
So, what is to be done? Obviously, no amount of self-righteous articles will ever amount to a significant change, so what’s really the solution? In the spirit of “comparison is the thief of all joy,” I think the student body needs to stop with the silent competition and focus on themselves. Because, are you really in seven clubs, taking six classes, and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, if you don’t constantly talk about it? Of course, share your passions with others, but understand when “sharing” becomes downright bragging. Additionally, I think it would be smart for everyone to take a serious look at their involvement on campus and ask themselves, “why am I doing this?” If you can’t think of a good answer, something needs to change. Until then, the burnout will continue.
Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan/ Heights Editor