This semester, I made the mistake of thinking that I could handle six classes on top of three jobs and three extracurricular activities. I ended up dropping my sixth class, a course titled “Growing Up in Fiction.” It felt bittersweet. We happened to read novels of development in that class, analyzing the character’s growth while reflecting on our own. This course was taught by my major advisor, who also happened to be my pre-major advisor and had truly watched me “grow” since I was a pre-freshman. I had to drop it because I was losing my sanity. Busyness is the bane of Penn students’ existence; we have so many opportunities here, but if we don’t take every single one of them, somehow we feel that we must be doing something gravely wrong. I feel that still. Yet, out of the 24 hours we have each day, to live our lives controlled by our Google Calendars gives no space for any sense of spontaneity or joy. Time chains us to the bone.
When I told my friend (whose name happens to be Hope) about my anxiety of wanting to do all the things I love but not having the energy, she explained that sometimes we had to say “no” for better “yes’s.” She was right. I am never the perfect self I want to be, and my energy (surprisingly!) does not last forever. We need to give ourselves the time to simply have worthwhile conversations with friends, watch a good Netflix show, or even just take a nice, long walk. We need time to just…be.
I dropped “Growing Up” to grow up. I say No to be kind to myself. In Penn’s fast-paced culture of pre-professionalism, slowness feels radical, almost unheard of. Yet, as young people, isn’t that what we should also be doing? Anything worthwhile will take a long time, and to take things slow may be the best way to observe what’s beautiful around us and have the time to appreciate those moments. I am slowly learning how to choose those moments as well. To know that I do not have to do everything — it’s sad, but also the reason why we give meaning to the things we truly wish to say “yes” to.