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The Carletonian

Overcommitting: The Subtle Art of Doing Too Much

For all my freshmen in the crowd: do you remember Dean Williams saying that we shouldn’t sign up for every single email list during those CarlTalks I’m sure half of us were unconscious for? Well, I can safely say that, over 7 months later and having two terms here under my belt, he was absolutely right. I have not actually tried counting how many emails I get from departments that I signed up for on the off-chance I might find something interesting but have neither the time nor the motivation to actually go to. It is exhausting sometimes to see that notification pop up and for it to be something I would rather have just seen a poster for and passed by without thinking much of it. Those emails — class emails, club emails, campus announcements and God only knows what else — all clamor for my very limited attention. I have done what so many before have fallen victim to: Overcommitting.


The initial wave was certainly the Academic Fair and the Club Fair that took place in the first few weeks of fall term. All those departments and people and activities. There was a very real sense of missing out on things that I might potentially be interested in. Despite having never gone to events for some of these departments or clubs, there is always a hesitation when unsubscribing myself from their mailing lists. What if this week is the week I suddenly develop a deep passion for one of the hundred things I’ve signed up for? Who knows, so maybe it’s better to just leave it the way it is.


But overcommitting isn’t just the deluge of emails that I really should read one of these days. It also exists in the slow creep of responsibilities and events that you take on. Individually, they’re trivial and not really all that much effort, but together, they form a slow and crushing tide of commitments. I am currently Class Representative, an editor for the Carletonian, on the Ballroom Dance Team, Social Dance Club Co-Captain, co-founder of Vivify, a member of MOSAIC and MSA and Studio Monitor in Boliou in addition to my regular three classes (plus piano lessons and Social Dance II). It did not start off this way in the slightest. It was a persistent push of things that I did — and still do — genuinely enjoy and care about. But if I stopped caring about one of them, or just had enough work from my academics or just wanted a break, what would I do? It’s really difficult to stop doing this dance once you’ve started it. The bonds of responsibility and community you find in these activities and occupations become really hard to break, since they become so inextricably linked to your social life.


Maybe that’s how the culture here works. Rush, rush, rush until the term is over. Rest for a bit and then do it all over again. The ten-week system does not allow for much breathing room, I think we can agree on that much. Taking days off when you’re physically ill is hard enough, and it becomes harder when the strain is mental and the solutions are not as immediately obvious as taking prescribed medication or getting more sleep. For some of us, brilliant and bright students that we are, maybe it’s not overcommitment but just-the-right-amount-commitment (I am partial to the term “Goldilocks-commitment” personally). But the struggle to be present at everything, despite that not being possible or even feasible for anyone who wants to get more than three consecutive hours of sleep at a time, is something that affects the lives of students at this college. Many of us tie our self-worth to how productive we are, and a large part of that is reflected in how we choose to do so much with the little time we have, and unfortunately often end up cutting out elements of our lives that are really important to our well-being, whether it’s skipping meals or sleep or socializing with friends.


My point after writing all of this out is that we should try to be more conscious of the amount of things we are doing. There is no inherent virtue in doing everything to the point of self-harm or neglect. I feel as though we are all reasonable enough to recognize that for others, that it’s alright to take a break sometimes. All I ask is that we have that same compassion for ourselves that we understand and extend to others. I struggle with it quite often, but reminding myself that I should take a step back sometimes is something that helps me. Just because the term is sprinting forward at a thousand miles per hour doesn’t mean we have to do the same.

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About the Contributor
Rahim Hamid
Rahim Hamid, Viewpoint Editor
I write, I debate, I bike, I lie, I true, I draw and program and dance and all the rest. Say hi and don’t be a stranger! Rahim is a sophomore and previously wrote for the Viewpoint Section.

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