Lately, the weight of the world has been pretty heavy. So why does Guilford College so often ask its students to carry that weight alone in order to reach success, instead of giving us the support and guidance we need to carry it together?
Guilford needs to take a long hard look at the amount of stress that we accept as normal for students and for the institution as a whole. We need to look critically at the unreasonably high number of initiatives and activities always going on in such a small community that is meant to be intentional with its approach to higher education.
The solution lies in our liberal arts identity, but we need to let go of some assumptions about what academic life has to be like before we can reach it. Constant multitasking for the sake of getting good grades and resume items, or simply because we think it is expected of us, is not the way to be successful. Those of us who have trouble motivating ourselves to strive for supposed success as a student are not worth less than those of us with constantly full Google calendars.
The most important thing is for us to support one another and help each other reach our goals instead of bearing the weight alone.
Collaboration can’t be a buzzword we talk about and aim for only because it sounds important. It needs to be an integral part of the work we do as a college, so that we can rely on one another both when at a loss for how to solve problems and when we need that extra inspiration to go further.
You see a lack of collaboration and an overabundance of stress across different departments, in leadership programs and in extracurricular activities. It’s tough to see the pattern when you look at each student as individual or at each situation as isolated. But in terms of big picture, we have an overcommitment to too many different ideas and initiatives as an institution, which leads to unnecessary stress and pressure for students and other community members and, in the long run, does more harm than good.
There’s no one single source for this. We put people on pedestals for being over- committed to the point of running on fumes. Less involvement is seen as failure even when just keeping up with grades takes up most of someone’s energy.
Guilford prides itself in accepting students of many different backgrounds, including people who are not traditionally seen as ideal students, but then when new students get here, they are asked to do it all. This is clear with all the different things we have going on all around campus, which are rarely united or connected in tangible ways. Do we have so many different activities because they work or because it looks good on paper?
According to President Jane Fernandes, the College is supposed to be teaching us to do a few things that we care about in the best ways that we can. It is, in fact, common sense that if someone wants to accomplish quality things that they enjoy, taking it one thing at a time is the best way to reach healthy and sustainable success.
This is what we are often told, but somehow, the messages that constant work and constant stress are the solution seem to be the ones that the College spreads through its expectations for students. The institution as a whole steers us toward overworking ourselves, just like wider society lately has sold stress, busyness and working too hard as the lifestyle of success.
However, the College has also been pushing for more collaboration lately, and that is where the solution lies. We need to find ways to communicate with one another and take care of ourselves and each other, so that instead of burning out, we can truly follow our passions.