Judaism's got it right. As per the Fourth Commandment (of the most-famous 10), observant Jews don't work on Saturday, the Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew). "Work" doesn't just mean paid work; traditionally this prohibition extends to housework, driving, writing and many other things. Shabbat is supposed to be one day of complete rest per week and is a rejuvenating break for those who observe it. But sometimes it's not enough.
I'm not saying you should get religion. But I think many of us should take a page from the Torah and take a break. Personally, I'm cutting back next semester - taking fewer credits, taking one class pass-fail, taking a break from The Daily Pennsylvanian - so that I can do the things I've only dreamed about for the last year-plus. I'm going to sleep eight hours a night, cook healthy food instead of grabbing random free pizza on the go and reconnect with my favorite people - if they're not too busy.
Career suicide, you say? Won't it look strange to grad schools if you're only taking a few classes for credit? According to campus experts, not really. First, the classes and extracurriculars I do, I'll do well, and I'll have more energy to devote to my job. Rather than doing just decently in many things, I have the opportunity to be a rock star in a few areas I'm extremely passionate about.
"Employers in all sorts of industries look at the whole composite of the student," said Kelly Cleary, the senior associate director of Career Services. "They're looking for internships and academics, but they also want someone who is well-balanced. Focus on your strengths, because you will ultimately do better in those areas."
That's good news at a time when it seems like Penn students couldn't be any more stressed. Between the death spiral of the American (global?) economy, increasingly expensive tuition and our perfectionist natures, we sometimes act as though if we're not the absolute best at everything, our lives will end in an Armageddon of unpaid student loans and social ostracism.
"As one student said, Penn students are healthy, just not well," said Susan Villari, Office of Health Education director, in an e-mail. "Based on OHE's population-based research, stress and sleep are the top-two health issues that Penn students say impede academic performance at Penn. That data has been consistent since 2001."
But why do we resist our bodies' calls (read: the second time in a week you've fallen asleep in lecture) for change? Cleary believes it's "the pre-professional nature of Penn" - that "students do at times put too much pressure on themselves and that pressure comes from each other. People think that everyone else is doing six internships" in their chosen field before graduation.
Villari says that "OHE's qualitative data suggest that the source of stress is dependent on many variables including year at Penn, race, gender, socioeconomic status, health status, etc."
Whatever it is, it's not working. There's something wrong when I have to schedule meetings two weeks out, and trying to get five of my freshman-year hallmates together for dinner takes six days and tons of e-mails because all of us are so incredibly busy. There's something wrong when I have to wonder when I can fit in time for sleep.
So next semester, I'm taking a Shabbat of sorts from college. I'll have more time to be good at the things I truly love and to take care of my body - instead of pretending that riding my bike around West Philly counts as exercise and that foraging at food trucks counts as proper nutrition. I might even be able to practice viola (kind of important for a Music major).
Next time someone asks you to sign up for something, think about saying no. View sleep as an investment in your future that's just as important as that sixth credit or umpteenth extracurricular. Breathe for a second and know that Career Services has never seen someone who wants a job not get some kind of job. Take part of your weekend off.
The sages of the Talmud would be proud.
Meredith Aska McBride is a College junior from Wauwatosa, Wis. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Radical Chic appears every Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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