During last year’s Orientation Week, then-Student Association president Ravi Sheth detailed his underclassman years, explaining how he overloaded himself with activities, cramming extracurricular after extracurricular into his schedule until he found himself burned out. In spending so much time on things he wasn’t actually interested in, he lost sight of what he was doing at Rice.
His story has a happy ending, but so many other people devote their college years to biting off more than they can chew. It’s one thing to be an overzealous freshman who signs up for way too many organizations at the club fair, and a completely different thing to be someone who continues to pursue position after position, just for the sake of having some title. In fact, the latter is the major issue, not the former.
If we constantly seek to stuff our resumes, we end up never doing anything for ourselves; everything is for the benefit of someone else. In high school it was for admissions, now it’s for potential employees. Ironically, we might find that in all the BS-ing and flubbing through activities we don’t really care about, we end up getting caught up in the pitfalls of our constantly forward-looking generation. (And we might be taking an opportunity away from someone else.) Many of us have fallen into the trap of blindly seeking one extracurricular after the next, constantly on the prowl for some nonacademic activity we can boast about on our Linkedin profiles. In our attempts to make our stack of titles bigger and better, we lose sight of our genuine interests.
I met an engineering director at the Sunnyvale Yahoo office over the summer who, as a sociology major who ditched law school, told me I should do what I love, and money will come later. It is an age-old message: Follow your passion, follow your heart, etc. (The cheese ensues.) But it’s one that people perpetually take for granted and disregard because of its supremely obvious nature.
I think we should bite off more than we can chew, just for a semester or a year — on the condition that we use that time to explore what we’re actually interested in and curious about. It’s okay to extend ourselves a little too far so as to pull back, re-evaluate and regroup. We need to find that perfect medium: Without truly pushing ourselves to the point of “too much,” we won’t know the full capacity of our capabilities. And without exploring as wide a range of subjects or activities, we may never discover our genuine passions. I seriously admire those who knew upon or before entering college what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives, because I don’t, and I bet more than half of all college students have not found their passions (even seniors). We should take the time, while we have it, to dabble and dip our toes in far-flung ponds, because we won’t get many chances post-graduation. Many people claim “it’s never too late,” but sometimes it actually is. A barrage of eventual responsibilities completely out of our control lies beyond the college years — eventually, we won’t be able to permit ourselves to be selfish and explore whatever we want. Here and now, we can create and benefit from our obligations. College is for figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives after all the schooling and instruction. It seems to me there’s no more suitable nor perfect time to indulge in over enthusiasm and extracurriculars.