I recently read an article for my general ethics class which has provoked a great deal of self reflection. The article titled, The Organization Kid, is written by David Brooks from the April 2001 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. This helps explain why I can only post sporadically these days.
Read the following excerpt of David Brooks’ observation.
In our conversations I would ask the students when they got around to sleeping. One senior told me that she went to bed around two and woke up each morning at seven; she could afford that much rest because she had learned to supplement her full day of work by studying in her sleep. As she was falling asleep she would recite a math problem or a paper topic to herself; she would then sometimes dream about it, and when she woke up, the problem might be solved. I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. I mentioned this to other groups, and usually one or two people would volunteer that they did the same thing. “I just had an appointment with my best friend at seven this morning,” one woman said. “Or else you lose touch.”
There are a lot of things these future leaders no longer have time for. I was on campus at the height of the election season, and I saw not even one Bush or Gore poster. I asked around about this and was told that most students have no time to read newspapers, follow national politics, or get involved in crusades. One senior told me she had subscribed to The New York Times once, but the papers had just piled up unread in her dorm room. “It’s a basic question of hours in the day,” a student journalist told me. “People are too busy to get involved in larger issues. When I think of all that I have to keep up with, I’m relieved there are no bigger compelling causes.” Even the biological necessities get squeezed out. I was amazed to learn how little dating goes on. Students go out in groups, and there is certainly a fair bit of partying on campus, but as one told me, “People don’t have time or energy to put into real relationships.” Sometimes they’ll have close friendships and “friendships with privileges” (meaning with sex), but often they don’t get serious until they are a few years out of college and meet again at a reunion—after their careers are on track and they can begin to spare the time.
But nowhere did I find any real unhappiness with this state of affairs; nowhere did I find anybody who seriously considered living any other way.
Maybe the lives of the meritocrats are so crammed because the stakes are so small. All this ambition and aspiration is looking for new tests to ace, new clubs to be president of, new services to perform, but finding that none of these challenges is the ultimate challenge, and none of the rewards is the ultimate reward.
There is an important balance between ambition and personal time that each person needs to evaluate. Is having a well rounded perfect resume worth the cost of hurting important relationships? Tonight I had set aside an hour to meet up with my old roommate who is still trying to get my birthday present to me (which was September 22). I was getting ready to walk out the door when I received a phone call from the chairman of a committee I sit on asking me where I was. Apparently as I was scrambling to finish a math quiz that was due Friday and down a bowl of Ramen noodles, I had forgotten about an 8:00PM meeting. I ran from my house to campus with my books bouncing in my bag, while making a sincere apologetic phone call telling my friend not to expect me. A scheduled “meeting” with my friend was confiscated from my evening so that I could review tomorrow’s legislation for the Student Congress meeting.
These examples beg the question of the value humans assign to certain tasks. These obligations clog my day from something that should be enjoyable into a mere digital agenda on my cell phone ordering me from place to place. There is no personal time, no down time, and no time to fulfill life’s pleasures. At the end of the day, how much is actually being accomplished well versus being accomplished to cross off my list?
Although this post deviates from my initial mission of the site, I want to explain my sudden lapse in postings. It is the “organization kid” in me that is taking over other things that I normally enjoy and help keep me balanced. If I were to take away any of my duties on the Student Congress, as the Vice President of the senior class, or as the President of the College Republicans, I would not be a happy person. Yet, I am an unhappy person when I lose important relationships and have to compromise some of life’s simple pleasures. So the question for me, and for all of you who can relate in some minute way, is how to balance time so that you can maximize its worth.
Tomorrow, I have a 15 minute catch-up chat over milkshakes with my roommate. I hope I can be there.