A sacrifice for satisfaction: Why your papers and problem sets can wait

I really wanted to write this (well, not this specifically, but an article nonetheless), and then again I really didn’t. Let me explain.

It’s a Saturday; I now write these words after completing a reading for my German Comparative Literature class due on Monday afternoon. Two things, for anyone that knows me, would already set off some alarms. First, me in Sawyer Library on a Saturday? Second, me doing a reading for a 1:10 any earlier than noon that day?

I know – I sound like a total idiot. Some would argue that’s not far off from the truth. Some would tell you they’ve never seen me doing work, or that I don’t take school seriously enough. Some might even say I’m a burnout. (I prefer “aspiring novelist.”) Hey, that’s cool. Maybe I do chill a bit too much, but I still find time to get it all done. I like doing well, and I definitely want a job after graduation (hit me up on LinkedIn), but I’ll be damned if I let myself become a robot.

That isn’t to say studying and working hard is “uncool”; I’m definitely no authority on what is or isn’t cool. Nor is it my intent to shame so-called “hardos.” After all, every one of us got into the College because we care, a lot. But far too often do I find myself in Sawyer watching my peers sigh in unison, drown themselves in eco-cup coffees, doze off and start back up in dazed typing frenzies, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of all these things (Surprise! I actually do regularly go to Sawyer and pretend to do work), but my sense is that a sizable portion of campus concerns itself so primarily with grades that they, that we, forget that we’re here for more than just capital letters and a plus or minus on PeopleSoft.

I’ve had days where the next meant two papers due, a presentation, a quiz. And I sit there, black coffee in hand, screen blinding me, seat twirling left and right as I try to force out something vaguely brilliant enough to mask how damn tired and defeated I am writing it. I play around with witty working titles that never make the final cut because they’re all swear-ridden and passive-aggressive. After about the tenth time italicizing and bolding and making it rainbow-colored, I have the most brilliant idea of all. I save it, I log off and I get the hell out of there. Call me lazy if you want, but one-third of a letter grade isn’t worth my sanity or carpal tunnel.

And then? Do I go read a novel for another class or assignments out of a course packet for another to get your mind off the essay? Hell no. I walk back to Mish and see what’s up with my friends. From there, it all goes very downhill. One episode of Rick and Morty turns into a Google search of similar shows because we just finished the series; a playful punch for an insult turns into a 20-minute survival-death-match-chase through the entry halls; no-the-Rolling-Stones-aren’t-better-than-the-Beatles-yes-they-are-no-they’re-not-stop-doing-drugs; Snack Bar? By the time you know it, it’s three in the morning and we haven’t actually done anything. And you know what? I don’t care. That paper can wait; these friendships can’t. You only get one shot at an experience like college, at meeting and living with and succeeding and messing up with these guys (or girls) that you spend every day with only this once… and the essay’s a day late now, anyway.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to tank all your classes for a few laughs. Not even I am that dumb, and I once ate Betta fish food after losing the odds (and other things; it’s a running joke that my tongue stopped finding funny over Winter Study). We have been given (read: earned) an amazing opportunity to attend such a prestigious, excellently staffed and academically encouraging institution. With enough dedication, we’ll all be successful in our own right. So yes, that extra hour of studying can be worth it, and that all-nighter to really make your paper worth reading and that hangout-rejection text to check over all the problem sets one (or a few) last times before the test. But please, for the love of God, if that lab report is crushing your soul and you’re sitting there questioning why beautiful, genius you is even at the College, walk away. Get up and go chat with a friend who’s chilling on their phone in a project room, take a walk outside, go for a run, listen to your favorite album, look at cat memes. Just don’t force yourself to sit there and keep working when you’re not really getting anything out of it. We pay too much money to hate our classes and ourselves. Work when you’re ready to, when you can sit back down and remember how much you love your major, when you can remember how all those words on the screen aren’t actually bullshit, but rather are the opinions on the novel’s themes that you discussed at Snack Bar with your friend while avoiding the paper, which you suddenly found you couldn’t wait to write. When you can remember that you enjoy being a student at the College, then go do your homework. Not a moment sooner.

Or perhaps I really am just lazy. I wrote this in 30 minutes, anyway. Now put the Record down and go procrastinate (unless that’s what you were doing, in which case keep it up, you’re doing a fine job).

Breidy Cueto ’19 is from The Bronx, NY. He lives in Mills-Dennett. 

Comments (2)

  1. There’s certainly a lot to find out about this topic.
    I really like all of the points you’ve made.

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