By William Gupton
I first realized the problem when I was sent a Google Calendar event to go see a movie with a couple friends. It wasn’t a large group of people, nor was it an odd time to see a movie. To someone like me, who has never liked Google Calendar and consequently has never put a great amount of investment into maintaining one, this invite for a casual social event was baffling. I think that there is a fairly significant problem of overuse and over reliance on Google Calendar on campus that is largely indicative of a greater issue going on.
But first: why I don’t like Google Calendar or systems like it. I myself like to have the freedom of open opportunity. I like being in a position where there is nothing that I have to do and can freely choose how to spend that time, be it a restful period of introverted time or a spontaneous meetup with someone to do something fun, like going to see a movie.
However, when the untertherdness that comes from free time becomes subjected and subverted via Google Calendar, a fun event suddenly becomes just another obligation. Fun free time is replaced with a more structured “fun” time, essentially sucking the life out of the event for a person such as myself.
This is true for more than just events with groups of people, it applies to overly structured schedules as a whole. I have seen a surprisingly large number of people create Google Calendar time slots for activities such as, “go to the gym,” “get food” or even “take a break.” There is a healthy level of structure needed to thrive in a college environment, but scheduling time to take a break, putting a start and end time to “rest” is the exact opposite of resting. Instead of a true break as should be, this becomes a scheduled obligation to rest. It is work wrapped in a label of rest, not to be mistaken for rest itself.
Now I completely recognize why people do this. For many students, not having an explicitly set apart time to rest will mean that they won’t rest ever, or won’t take the time to put a focus on physical or emotional health. I am sympathetic to that problem, but I do not believe structuring rest via Google Calendar is the solution. To me, the solution is not more rest, it is less work; it is finding a healthy balance between work and rest that enables one to maintain a healthy lifestyle in a truly holistic sense of the term.
It would not be a shocking or surprising statement for me to say that Willamette students, generally, are overworked and overcommitted. I myself have become remarkably guilty of this stereotype this semester, which is one of the primary reasons I am writing this. For many students, being a full-time college student is a tremendous burden to handle. I know others who are students full-time and working a job part-time or playing a sport. More still, I know a very large number of people who are college students full-time, working part-time, club-leaders, participating in music ensembles and so much more.
This is not healthy for us in the long run. Simply because you can do all of these things and be relatively successful in all of them does not necessarily mean you should. On campus, we often talk about physical, mental, emotional (and sometimes spiritual) health, but I think it is time we add a new category of health to pay attention to: ergonomical health, or in simpler terms, work-related health.
Just because an event fits into a Google Calendar and it all technically doesn’t overlap too much does not mean that it is a healthy amount of work. If you only allot between a half hour and an hour for each meal, you are depriving yourself of a prime opportunity to rest and build relationships with other people; not to mention the restful benefits of being able to eat without fear of the clock and the ability to sit still so your food can settle.
Our rest needs to be more than just a few deep breaths every couple of hours, it needs to be incorporated in a healthy rhythm of work and rest, and I do not think that is possible to establish via Google Calendar. Rest is not scheduled, rest is a way of life.
I have so much more that I could say, but I think I am going to enjoy the sunlight while its out. You should too.