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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Writer: Analyzing the ebb and flow of Carleton homework

<e coming up on 10th week. I can see the stress mounting among my classmates. I can see the workloads beginning to pile up (if they weren’t already). And, interestingly enough, I can see students who don’t have much work. I’m one of them.

Granted, that will change quite quickly. Carleton’s 10-week terms lend themselves to capricious workloads and fleeting ups and downs. For every day of little work there’s probably a half-week of projects waiting for you down the line. Conversely, for every jam-packed week you may have there’s usually a day or two or reprieve, mostly since these tend to be long-term projects coming to a head all at once. Nature has the calm before the storm; we have the calm after the storm. Followed by another wave.

But you see, I find those calm periods particularly interesting, not because of anything inherent to them, but because of the emotions they might engender in a Carleton student. Over the last 24 hours, I have talked with multiple people about what I have termed “anti-stress guilt.” One of my friends first brought it to my attention, and I’m sure most of you have experienced it before. You’re the kid with no work from the first paragraph. You’re surrounded by ailing classmates—what do you do? You can’t just say you have no work. Then you’re a jerk!Wait…maybe you’re supposed to have work, and you just haven’t done it? No, you’re fairly on top of everything. But so is everyone else, and they’re still busy…maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re not working hard enough? Nah, as if…

I doubt the average Carl considers themselves to be a workaholic. But there’s something fundamentally wrong about guilting oneself over a lack of work, yet multiple people that I’ve spoken to say they’ve done exactly that. When faced with a comparative abundance of free time (whether it be from good time management or just a 2-day lull in the term), they’ve found themselves at a loss for what to do. This is, I suspect, natural, if only because Carleton makes our schedules so packed that our once-frequent hobbies gain a propensity to fall by the wayside. It’s hard to pick things up again for just a few hours at a time. What concerns me, however, is this nagging guilt that I have heard described to me by these Carls. It’s the little voice in the back of your head that sows suspicion; the devil on the shoulder that whispers “what if.”  I can truthfully say that I am no stranger to it, and I suspect that a great many of you fall in the same boat.

To be clear, I’m not saying that Carleton students are always working because of this guilt; to the contrary, I bet that most of us would take free time if offered. What I’m trying to say is that this is an unhealthy mindset which impedes enjoyment of that free time. It’s 9th week! Most of us are juggling a full academic load alongside extracurricular commitments and jobs. Any downtime at all is precious and should be treated as such, unabashedly. I’ve been thinking about how we can all try and improve our mindset, but I really think it must come from within. I know I have a tendency to unconsciously compare myself with others, and I’ve consciously tried to combat it these past several years. What I find really helps is when I discuss these types of issues with others, since I often find that I am not alone in these habits. That, in turn, helps me realize that everyone is combating the same problems and probably won’t judge you for little things like not having a lot of work.

That’s why I’m writing this column. I hope it inspires others to go out and talk with their friends about this and other similar mindsets that they might have, and to look critically and see if any of them are unhealthy. I have just one request—enjoy yourself while doing so, and don’t be afraid of taking the time off if you need it.

After all, it is 9th week.

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