The student-leader’s guide to quitting everything

By Emily Smith

Assistant Opinion Editor

Canisius is a highly-polarized environment filled with educated individuals who have strong feelings, needs, and passions. This is so evident from past few weeks of articles in The Griffin in which some new faces (and some old friends) have come forward to share their opinions on various aspects of the world that we all have the privilege to live in. This campus, like most college campuses, is a breeding ground for different ideas and viewpoints. Because of this, we are lucky to have many clubs and organizations on campus that promote a wide range of passions and views. With this understanding, my question is: why aren’t more students involved?

I don’t want this to be misconstrued as a question formed out of anger or resentment for those who are not very involved. I hate to admit this, but this time last year, I might have felt twinges of annoyance at those of you reading this who fall into the category of students involved in little-to-nothing besides school. I might have questioned your motives for “seclusion” or asked you if you had anything at all that you felt compelled to work towards. However, my feelings of frustration have melted away as I have become closer and closer to living in this group myself.

At the beginning of this year, I belonged fully into what I would argue is one of two main “groups” at Canisius: those students who are involved in way too many things on campus; the other is those who are involved in very little. As a student-leader, I loved when people knew my name and my face. I loved being recognized in the hallway as that human who planned that one event we went to last week. Being on e-boards, making appearances at big events on campus, and having as many things in my email signature as possible really got me going. I wanted to be around and I wanted to be known. However, for those of you who have lived this life, you know that it’s very tiring, especially for someone with an introverted heart such as myself.

Of course, being a student-leader is something to never be ashamed of. Being involved in as many things as you can get your hands on is something to be proud of. Hard work is something to be proud of. Having a long email signature is something to be proud of. However, I was so involved not because I was exceptionally passionate about every little thing I was doing, but rather because I just couldn’t say no.

At a conference I went to this summer, one of the speakers gave a talk about being balancing responsibilities as someone who is passionately involved in many things. He assured each of us that he understood that we were people with passion that stretched around many causes, clubs, and organizations. He then invited one of the participants to the front to help in a demonstration. He then started listing off various activities that a highly-involved student might participate in. With each activity (“jazz band,” “rifle club,” “club hockey,” “DMA club,” etc.), he gave the person in the front another water bottle to hold. Soon, she was juggling so many water bottles that she couldn’t hold them all and most of them fell to the ground.

The speaker went on the further explain the already-clear visual message: if you’re doing too much, even if everything that you’re doing is something you’re passionate about, you’re bound to drop something eventually. He ended with telling us how important is is to do a few things and to do those things very well, instead of doing a lot of things and not giving each thing the attention that it deserved.

I took this message to heart, but didn’t start to exercise it until this semester as I started to think about what was important to me as a person and as a professional individual. With applications coming out left and right for various clubs, activities, and responsibilities for the coming year, I found myself dreading every single paragraph I had to write about why I wanted to be involved in a variety of different activities. While in the past, I would have chalked this dread up to simply not wanting to do work, this time around I actually thought about why I was dreading the prospect of doing things that I was supposedly excited for.

Fueled by some new self-reflection, I threw away (well, recycled) a ton of applications, nomination forms, and job descriptions. Of course, I felt guilty at first; I knew that my title as student-leader would be revoked and I would become just a regular old student. As I thought about this, however, I realized that being a regular student didn’t sound so bad at all. Although I would be doing less, I would be doing a few things very well. Furthermore, I would be able to spend my senior year with less stress and more time for preparing for my future.

I’ll end with a call to action (because of course I will) for everyone who feels like they’re doing way too much and don’t know how to stop: understand that you don’t need to do everything to be successful. If you feel yourself wanting to fall into the non-student-leader category, trust your instincts and know that not being a student-leader doesn’t make you a failure. Balance what is life-giving with what is good for your mental health. After all, life is too short to be wrangled into things because of obligation, whether the obligatory feeling is internal or external.

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