For a long time during my freshman year, I stayed up until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning on a daily basis and slept for only a handful of hours at a time. If I managed to wake up for a morning class, I almost always fell asleep at my desk. On weekends, I slept for 10 hours each night in a desperate attempt to ease some of my sleep deprivation.
A really strange phenomenon happens to me when I am completely exhausted: the world tilts suddenly off its axis. I blink and everything returns to normal, but the strangeness of it all stays with me. Why am I pushing my body to the extremes in order to be a Bowdoin student?
Like many others, I have overcommitted myself. At this learning institution, I have more extracurriculars than I do classes. In my earnestness to create a home here for every student of color, I forgot to build one for myself. I am a leader before I am a student, but this has to change. The most radical thing I can do here is to graduate in four years.
Last semester, I took Photography I with Professor of Art Michael Kolster. It was an 8:30 class, and after the mistakes of first year, I told myself I would never wake up before 9 a.m. again. But this class was different. I loved the material and taking pictures made me feel alive. I changed my sleep schedule to accommodate this class, and I am a tremendously better student for having done so. After prioritizing rest, I was able to absorb more of my readings and write better papers.
Photography has also made me a better person. Shooting with film and using a darkroom forced me to slow down. I could only see my pictures after I had developed them, and even then, each individual photograph would take another hour to print. This process did not provide instant gratification. Instead, it pushed me to observe my surroundings and collect my thoughts. The care I demonstrated for each photo increased my ability to care for others. I now listen more than ever and think critically about my connection to people and to place.
Have you ever called someone nice because they had no personality? Well, Bowdoin’s a nice place. I think we as a student body spread ourselves so thin that we don’t actually accomplish much of anything. I wish students would consider quality over quantity. Continue to explore what interests you, but recognize your limits. Contrary to the Bowdoin football team’s Instagram, we really cannot have it all here.
Time and again, I have done more for other people than I have myself. I have led clubs, which brought no personal satisfaction to my life, because other people wanted me to. I am doing no service to others if I cannot help myself. There was a moment last semester where the dizzying spells of my first year returned on a much more spiritual level. I no longer recognized what was happening in my own life. I had lost direction.
In the past few weeks, I have stepped down from an organization that I had previously thought I would one day preside over. I have declined a contract that would have continued a job I’ve held for two years now. Before I am anything else, I would like to be a college student. I want to make friends, find love and maybe even attain inner peace. I say this to the student body, drop your extracurriculars and if you can afford, quit your job. I truly believe this will improve the well-being of every individual on our campus.