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The blissful struggle of overcommitment

This has been an article I have been meaning to write for most of the semester. Given that the theme of this piece is overcommitment, there is a certain irony involved in knowing that the delay may have been caused, in some part, by an overcommitment on the part of the author. But, the real reason why this piece has continued to be postponed or delayed consistently for the last few weeks is simply because overcommitment happens to be one of my largest concerns at the moment, so this is not necessarily an easy piece to write as my views on the matter tend to be conflicted.

We are all college students, with dreams and passions and many, many interests. Some of us may have an easier time prioritizing some of those interests than others, while some, like me, dread neglecting some of our interests in favor of others.

Overcommitment can come in many forms. Some people have a difficult time saying, “no;” others simply want to finish what they started, and there are a cluster of those who use overcommitment as an excuse to justify procrastination. Whether it be academic pursuits or extracurricular activities, service or networking—these are all enriching experiences and are very valued in a liberal arts education. On the other hand, when does the multiple obligations and responsibilities we have set up for ourselves simply come to be too much?

As college students, we should be pursuing our passions, discovering the pieces of ourselves that make us who we are, treading new grounds, and building a foundation for our future. I have always been proud of the diversity of my pursuits, defended the significance of my passions, reveled in a wide range of interests spanning such diverse fields as the arts, biology, philosophy, and neuroscience. However, I have slowly been coming to the realization that there are only so many hours in the day, and we are all merely human. We need sleep, and it could be nice to have an extra hour or two in a day to go to the gym or enjoy a causal conversation with a friend you have not seen in a while.

But, despite the sleepless nights and stressful schedule, I am having a hard time accepting that overcommitment is a bad thing. (While I condemn resume-building, some of us are uniquely invested in all of our activities.) Even when so many people are able to condemn the lack of leisure time, I resist easily categorizing overcommitment into the same category of skills college students should strive to manage, i.e. time-management and communication skills. It is not that I do not realize how it can be problematic, or that I can pretend that this is not an issue that directly pertains to me, but rather, I fail to see how following your interests and pursuing your passions can be so terrible.

I have heard all of the warnings before—multiple times, actually. People consistently caution against burning out, sacrificing sleep, and neglecting one’s physical and mental health. While it is true that some people eventually come to dread that which they once loved to do—as even the most rewarding activities can come to be seen as a burden under the strain of various other pressures—I have a hard time accepting that I need to do less when I am also doing what I love and learning every step of the way.

I do acknowledge the fact that, to some degree, overcommitment can seem less focused, and it is always possible that by failing to prioritize one thing over another you risk ineptitude and sloppiness. Despite this, overcommitment does not mean a lack of prioritization and does not have to become synonymous with reduced effort, neglect, or carelessness. In fact, most people who tend to overcommit do so because they care too much, so carelessness should not even be a concern!

Perhaps not everyone will agree with me, but I do not think that we can so easily critique overcommitment or denounce it as a sin. We all do it on occasion, some of us more than others. As long as one is not neglecting themselves, losing sight of their goals, or sacrificing hard work and effort, overcommitment should be an endeavor that we applaud, rather than offhandedly judge as disillusionment. It might be nice to have someone express interest in some of our involvements, rather than denouncing them with a simple, “why?” Trust me when I say that there are reasons to everything. I would not do anything I did not believe in or have some investment in.

While overcommitment might not be for everyone—after all, having lots of leisure time can also provide a lot of advantages and benefits—it is not necessarily an issue, either. Leisure would mean nothing if there came to be too much of it.

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