Sometimes I feel that as Harvard students, we learn to over-plan our lives. We live by online apps like iCal or Google Calendar, forcing our days into orderly columns filled to the brim with overlapping boxes (color-coded, of course) each standing for classes, extracurriculars, interviews, meetings, deadlines, and of course the eternally vague “others” – those events that annoy our neurotic minds because we cannot fit them neatly into a colored category. On top of this, we program our calendars to send us reminders on our phones of where we need to be and at what time, ensuring that we stick to schedule and never stray off course.
To see two friends frantically pause on the sidewalk, whip out their phones, check their calendars, and rattle off mutual free time slots in which to schedule “catch-up coffee” or “lunch in the dhall” (lingo for dining hall) before rushing off in different directions because said phones have alerted them of their next commitment is maybe one of the most common sites at Harvard. I, for one, have become a pro at what I call the “walk-and-shout.” Here’s how it works: Sally is speed walking in one direction while her friend Joe is speed walking in the opposite direction. In their hurry they look up and recognize each other, but neither having the time to stop, they strike up their shouted conversation 10 feet away. As they get closer, neither’s velocity changes. Instead, once they pass each other, they each turn around and continue their conversation walking backward until neither can hear the other. Such a conversation is usually ended with a “let’s grab lunch!” followed by one or both parties checking their calendars.
The perk of scheduling – efficiency. Ever since the doodles of dogs, smilie faces, and hot air balloons in the margins of my notes turned into scrawled hour-by-hour breakdowns of my day, I’ve been able to fit a whole lot more in. And then as I’m falling asleep at the end of the day, I have fewer of those heart stopping “OMG I forgot to do X, Y, and Z!!!” moments, and therefore I sleep better knowing that I haven’t let the day go to waste.
But is there a moment when scheduled can become over-scheduled? Have days become 1”x 5” rectangles in our calendars rather than portions of our lives? By becoming obsessed with not missing a scheduled moment, are we actually missing out on life?
The weekend of the Harvard/ Yale game, I had it all figured out. I was riding down to New Haven on the Theta bus, getting in touch with my friend from prefrosh weekend Larissa, and following her around for the night. The next morning, I was going to wake up and hit the game with a bunch of my Theta sisters before returning with them on the bus. But when a few kinks in the plan emerged (Larissa had an International Relations something-or-other to attend), and I was forced to sort of float… which led me to running into a super old friend and “catching-up”—not in the Harvard, frantic sort of way, but in the real, let’s have a meaningful conversation sort of way. And when I ended up going into the Game alone the next afternoon because I’d lost my friends in the crowd, I had the opportunity to sit with a friend and her new boyfriend (who it turns out wasn’t new at all… I just hadn’t seen her in a long time), and then later sit with some old friends from Pennypacker (my totally amazing freshman dorm).
It’s interesting how if you were to ask me what I’ve done in the days since Harvard/ Yale, I would have to refer to my calendar from those days to tell you anything except for the one thing that wasn’t on my calendar – the Penguins hockey game I was spontaneously able to go to last night. There I was, sitting with my two little brothers and little cousin in the best hockey seats I’ve ever had in my life (right behind the goal), NOT writing the history essay I have due tomorrow at 5 pm, NOT writing this blog entry which is horrendously late, NOT calling the friend I was supposed to get in touch with, and having a fantastic time!
It was as the final goal in overtime sounded a Pens’ defeat, as I went home that night and allowed myself to watch a few old episodes of Glee before going to bed, as I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my family this afternoon, that I came to appreciate the ability to slow down and not be over-scheduled.
Breaks are meant to be breaks in our schedules. And yes, while I may have been scheduled to finish this blog post five minutes ago, and I am going to need to write my history paper before tomorrow morning so I can get up and enjoy all of the early-bird Black Friday specials with my sister before noon, and then I have to meet with some high school friends over dinner and a movie, then meet with another friend for breakfast on Saturday so I can get my haircut Saturday afternoon, before going to dinner with my family and spending time with another friend Saturday night, before returning to Harvard on Sunday and starting up with exams… there is something to be said for taking things as they come.
Maybe this is something that I can be more mindful of in the coming weeks as we close the semester. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!