In a recent browsing of my Twitter feed, I found a thread that really stuck with me. It was a long description of what it means when students struggle as a part of university culture or boast about how difficult their studies, work, or educational pursuits have been.
This is something I've thought a lot about throughout my time as a student. It seemed like, even in high school, that everyone wanted to have spent the most hours studying in the library, wanted to have stayed up the latest, or have had the most caffeine.
Part of it, on a surface level, seems like we're all working really hard and we're striving for excellence. That's great, right?
In essence, it is. But what's really happening is a culture that is taking form on university campuses. Gone are the days where we simply come into contact with pressure, competition, and difficulty leveling up to our classmates at a university. Now, we've got that, in addition to this culture of toxic struggling.
Everyone thinks that to be struggling the most means you're doing the best. That it's attractive, as a student, to be the one to spend the most hours, drink the most Red Bull, and to be the most ready for a test. It's almost like we're all trying to prove to ourselves and the rest of the world that we're ready to kill ourselves to get the grade so that when we don't we have the security blanket of hey, you tried really hard.
This Twitter thread inspired my friends and me quite a bit. But for me, I've had the luck to have parents who have taught me from the time I was in high school and things really ramped up in the studying arena that my sleep, my family, my meals, and my happiness come first. So entering college, I've developed a mindset that keeps me from locking myself in the library for days on end. I sleep when I need to, I stop when I need to, and I take breaks when I need to (sometimes maybe too often).
I've found there are times here at school where I get caught up in that culture, too, though. I want to spend X amount of hours at the library to feel like I'm being productive, to feel like I'm a stellar student, to feel like I've got it all handled. But then I understand that this culture of toxic studying and letting yourself go also works around a formula, that every method of preparation will work for every person. And sometimes hours upon hours in the library and 18 iced coffees isn't the trick to it all (maybe more like all the time).
Don't get me wrong -- I admire the people who can do it, who can study from dawn to dusk and then some, and those that can balance their self-care and their exams are champions to me.
But I don't admire the people who are stuck in the culture of seeing who can out-study, who can out-sleep deprive, and who can do the absolute most.
Because what's the reward? Sure, the A. The GPA. The satisfaction. But why not sleep, balance your time, study as you need to but no go over the top, and still get the A? Because maybe then, you'll be a little happier, healthier, and more prepared to live a balanced life in the workforce.
This is a culture that is perpetuated among all majors, all students, and through all universities. We think it's cool to let ourselves suffer to get the grade, and most of the time it's not even for the grade -- it's to be a part of the culture that competes for who can do the most. To show the world how far you're willing to go so when it may be (and I hope this isn't true if you spent all those hours in the library) falls through, you still look like you did everything you could at whatever cost.
To me, getting that 100% will never be worth giving up 100% of my happiness, my sleep, my passions, and the things outside of my academic goals that fuel me to be better and succeed.
Thread referenced: https://twitter.com/_rvalentina_/status/1071773749010145281?s=21