Questioning the need to always be busy at Colby

If one were to ask the “typical” Colby student what they’re involved in on campus, they would most likely be bombarded with a list of acronyms, titles, sports teams, positions, and clubs of which they have never previously heard. For example, I personally am the Managing Editor of the Echo, a Director of Broadway Musical Revue (BMR), a Co-Chair of the Senior Pledge Committee, a Research Assistant for a professor in the Education Department, a Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Colby, and a Writers’ Center tutor. And that’s normal.

Outside of the Colby bubble, that list may seem extreme. However, on Mayflower Hill, overcommitting is the norm; in fact, it’s almost expected. Students are encouraged (and virtually expected) to take on a double major or a major and minor (or, if they are daring, a double major and minor). At the beginning of each year, a club expo hosts each and every club on campus, complete with a barbeque and loud music. First years are encouraged (and again, virtually expected) to sign up for every club that even vaguely interests them, then to later focus in on the few groups in which they truly want to be. This turns into emails flooding inboxes announcing club meetings, speakers, pregames iPlay events, and more that they tend to ignore or delete until they actually get up the courage to take their name off of the email list and truly just be in the groups they care about, which are almost always still more than they can truly take on.

This is the point in my article where I ask the question that hopefully make you think long after you close this paper and use it to clean up spilled beer: Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why don’t we just go to class, do our homework, go to the dining hall, and hang out with our friends? What is this want—or moreover, need—to be busy?

Kiernan Somers ’17, a government and global studies double major with a managerial economics minor, is one of the busiest students on campus. Somers is a co-Editor-in-Chief of the Echo, the President of Colby Mens Rugby, a Donor Engagement Intern in the Office of Alumni and Student Engagement, and a Tour Guide in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Somers credits his extreme activity to pressure from his parents: “Familial expectat ions and my motivation to succeed have led me to become involved in many different areas. I hate being bored, and staying busy with extracurricular [activities], although stressful at times, keeps me from being bored.”

This leads me to my first point: some of us busy students are victims: victims of pressure from employers, parents, older siblings, nosy family friends and aunts and uncles and grandparents and neighbors to be impressive. We tack our names onto as many things as we possibly can, not necessarily because we are truly passionate about them, but because it looks good on paper, sounds good out loud, and keeps our parents off our back.

There are also the students, however, who are truly passionate about all that they do on campus. Take Hannah Insuik ’17, for example. Insuik is a biology major with chemistry and philosophy minors, and she is also on the pre-med track. Outside of classes and labs, Insuik is on the Womens Volleyball and Ice Hockey teams, a member of Hall Staff, a Colby Cares About Kids (CCAK) mentor, a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) facilitator, and a member of the Conduct and Academic Review boards. Insuik says: “It’s a lot. It feels like a lot. Often I don’t even understand how I do it all and stay sane…. All of my activities… are each a huge part of who I want to be for Colby, and represent things that I use to help make Colby be the place that I have loved and continue to love. The biggest thing I have learned through being so involved is that when you invest in Colby, it invests in you, and you can do anything…. I love Colby, I am invested in Colby, and I would not be the person I am without being so involved. I couldn’t imagine giving any of it up.”

At this point, I would like to point that some Colby students recognize the extremes that some members of our community go to in order to constantly be busy or involved on campus, such as Hannah Heyman ’16. Heyman, a psychology and French double major, is the co-President of Hillel, a CCAK mentor, a volunteer at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter (MMHS), a receptionist in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, a member of the Senior Pledge Committee, and a Phonathon Manager in the Office of Alumni and Student Engagement. Heyman says: “I feel like at Colby, we have this idea that you always need to be busy otherwise you aren’t doing enough. While I can definitely fall into that category, I don’t believe the ‘being busy for busy’s sake’ mentality is particularly healthy. Personally, I am someone who works best when I have things to do. The structure of having projects and chunks of time blocked out for different things helps me to get work done in a more productive way. I’m involved because I’ve found things I care about that I can contribute to, and that give me some sense of fulfillment. While there are some days that I wish I could just lounge in bed, and those days do exist, I know that I’m my best self when I’m out and about.”

Olivia Gould ’16 also shares Heyman’s sentiment. As a theatre and dance and music double major with a minor in creative writing, Gould is constantly performing or creating works of art, as well as working three different jobs on campus. “I sometimes wonder if as a society we put too much pressure on ourselves to measure our self-worth by achievements,” Gould says. “As an artist I’m not planning on measuring my success monetarily, but I know that I do so many things because I need to feel impressive and useful and like I’m contributing. It is partially also that there are so many wonderful opportunities on campus and so many things to learn and enjoy doing, and I just want to experience as much as I can. But I think I also have a fear of not being productive enough, not ‘going above and beyond,’ not being able to impress my parents and my professors and future employers with the amount of things I can get done in a day.”

Gould is a Director of BMR, a member of Powder and Wig in which she is currently playing the lead in the musical “Next to Normal”, a Research Assistant for Professor of Theater and Dance Lynne Conner, and a worker in Interlibrary Loans and in the Chapel. Could also takes voice lessons for credit, participates in a theater and dance show for credit each semester, is assistant directing an excerpt from a show that Conner is writing to later be shown in the New Works Festival (another part of which involves a show that she wrote), and is performing in “The Vagina Monologues” this weekend. One could say that Gould keeps busy.

Somers, Insuik, Heyman, and Gould are only four students out of about 1,800 at Colby. Each is busy, yet each has a different perspective on their involvement as well as that of others on this campus. Some students are bustling blurs of Patagonia and L.L. Bean, running from one end of campus to the other in hopes of being on time for their next meeting, and some students apathetically check the emails that they get each day from the 20 different clubs that they signed up for three years ago, only later to put that they’re a devoted member onto a resume. And then there are the people in the middle. I’m not saying one is better than the other, because everyone has their reasons and their hidden agendas that might not ever get told. This is the Colby experience, at least from where I’m sitting.

So, let’s go back to my earlier question: What is this want—or moreover, need—to be busy? While I can’t answer this for everyone, what I will say is this: we are all preparing to present ourselves, to brand ourselves, to sell ourselves to our future employers. We must stick out to those who will help us bring home the bacon, and we have been trained to believe that being involved and being “busy” will do just that. But, next time you find yourself with 300 pages of reading, a 15 page paper, an exam, and more club stuff to do than you can possibly imagine, ask yourself this: is wearing this costume of being busy worth it? Are you benefitting from this performance? Do you truly love everything you’re doing? Ask yourself that, and maybe consider taking the costume off for a change. Take a breather, regroup, and see where you end up.