Last year, two friends made an intriguing video for one of their classes. It was called “Sleep When You’re Dead” and it got a lot of attention on Vimeo from students, faculty and administrators alike.

The video itself highlighted Georgetown’s “busy” culture and how as a student body, we choose to define ourselves by what we do, so much so that the question “what do you do?” becomes part of our typical exchange when we meet someone for the first time on campus.

We glorify the student who is involved in four to five extracurricular activities (a leader in at least one of them), has an internship and is writing an optional thesis on the side. We value our social worth along these metrics, and always, it’s never enough. How many people do you know who stopped applying to things after their freshman fall semester? It never seems to end; opportunity doesn’t just knock at the beginning of every semester, it breaks down our door with ads, Facebook campaigns, posters and tables in Red Square and the Leavey Center.

“Sleep When You’re Dead” spurred a campus-wide conversation about our culture. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be enough to warrant a buzz that lasted more than a few weeks; after a while, the conversation ended and people went back to their “busy” lives.
Here we are a year later. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed at Georgetown. We still judge each other by our involvement in X or Y club and expect that our “what do you do?” question will yield an answer in which the respondent rattles off at least three involvements. Anything less is labeled implicitly as a failure.

And yet, despite the fact that we gladly participate in it, we are all still complaining about how this culture should change.
Now if this were a typical critique of the busy culture that Georgetown fosters, this is the part where we would give the canned advice: “Relax. Chill out. Don’t take everything so seriously.”

But we’re not going to tell you that, Georgetown. Because we know you’ll never listen. You’re going to keep right on going to your research assistantships and your five clubs and your full course load. And you know what? That’s just fine.

That thirst for life, that desire to excel and exceed is part of what makes Georgetown students the wunderkinds that they are. It’s what gives this university its character and reputation of excellence among its peer schools, which is something we should take pride in.

In short, we want you to stay thirsty, Georgetown.

But as you rush around, take a pulse. Take a moment of self-reflection; check on your health, both mental and physical, and check on your goals. Make sure that what you think you want to do is really what you want to do. And let these moments of inner awareness guide your actions.

These words may sound trite, but when all of us make these small changes on an individual level, change starts to happen on a cultural level. And we will realize the possibility of not sacrificing our “busy” culture, not changing it fundamentally, but making our culture healthier and more reasonable.

Because the fact of the matter is, our culture won’t change unless we change it. The pressure that we feel (often a consuming, crushing pressure) will never change unless we decide to expand our definitions of “success.” It will never be enough to just go to class and attend one weekly club meeting unless we make it enough. Until each of us stops measuring our own self-worth by how busy we are, others won’t stop measuring us with that same eye.

We recognize that these insights are anything but original — lamentations about Georgetown’s busy culture date back for at least as long as we’ve been here, and probably far earlier.

But we repeat this advice anyway because it bears repeating; we constantly need to examine (and re-examine) where we are and where we’re going, at Georgetown, and beyond.

 

Kendall and CamilleKendall Ciesemier and Camille Squires are seniors in the College. Eighteen Weeks appears every other Friday.

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