I opened my eyes to darkness. The only light in the room was from the dimly lit computer screen in front of me. As I leaned forward to look around the room, my lower back screamed in pain; I winced as I checked the damage. The muscles were tense and swollen.
It can’t be morning yet, I thought. The windows looked like they were made out of pure obsidian, a barrier from the horizontal abyss to the dark and unknown. Empty chairs scattered across the room stared back at me. No one else was here.
Once again, I realized I fell asleep in the clubroom. It was my fourth day in a row, and every one of those days was the same. I would wake up, go to class, come back to the clubroom, start work, and then fall asleep from the stress and the monotony. I leaned back, once again wincing as my back reminded me of the poor quality of sleep I got, and stared at the ceiling.
For those of you who have read my Letter from the Chief in the September volume, you might remember me asking myself, “Was the work worth it?” At that moment, I asked that question to myself again, but this time it wasn’t part of some existential crisis; no, it was grounded in reality this time. What in the world was I doing?
I skipped a total of ten classes after midterms. Morning alarms would ring only to be turned off immediately by me, whose brain also immediately turned off from the restored serenity. Even when I woke up early, my feet refused to get off the bed and greet the floor. I didn’t want to go to class. I didn’t want to do anything, really.
For the days when I did get out of bed, they were constant reminders that I no longer had time to waste, but I couldn’t admit it. My war with time eventually became a vicious cycle of less, worse sleep and less work completed. Even my hobbies started to bother me; every incorrect note on the piano and every lost game became a generous source of frustration and anger. I was clearly burnt out; how was I going to get myself out of this? What was the problem?
I eventually realized it was a combination of two factors: a negative attitude and having the wrong priorities. The first one is self-explanatory; once work is more of a chore than learning something new and exciting, once hobbies are more about winning or playing a difficult piece perfectly than enjoying the activity itself, of course they would become stressful and tedious. The latter factor, however, is much less evident.
Although it might not seem true, work is not that important. Arbitrary numbers and letters on pieces of paper do not define you. And even if they did, they shouldn’t hold precedence over health and happiness. As I struggled to catch up on work after being absent for two weeks, I handed in my homework late for the first time in my college career. As I uploaded my late work to KLMS, however, my feelings were of contentment, not despair; giving up on handing my homework in time provided me a level of comfort that I didn’t know was achievable.
This isn’t me telling you to slack off and not to do any work. I just want you to know that it’s okay if results aren’t good, it’s okay if you burn out, it’s okay if you take a breather. Your wellbeing is and should be your most important priority. So be strong, and think positively. Life is way too short to be worrying about things that won’t even matter to us in a few years.