I love to read. During the summer, I devour book after book. I read for hours on end, finishing books in one sitting and racing to the bookstore for my next read. I feel invigorated, alive, and relaxed after finishing a good book.
When the leaves start to change, the air gets chilly, I want to curl up with a cozy story, and the fall semester starts. For me, this means an onslaught of work that consists of primarily reading and writing. While I am learning about things I’m passionate about, my schoolwork starts to feel a little too much like the things I like to do in my free time. I go to pick up a book and hit a wall. Images of my crowded planner and Canvas notifications begin flashing in my mind. Feelings of anxiety and shame swirl through my chest and the book gets neglected until winter break. If every free second spent isn’t taken up by doing something productive, then what am I doing?
As college students, free time is not a concept that we are wholly familiar with. It comes few and far between and is usually something that is created, or earned. For example, if you cram all of your homework into four or five days so you can be free by the weekend— you may have bought yourself a few hours to paint, draw, crochet, or do a puzzle. When you finally breathe that deep sigh of relief and settle down to do your hobby of choice, you may be hit across the face with the feeling that you should be doing something productive related to school with your time.
When coming to college, we are highly encouraged to join clubs and extracurriculars to get involved. Typically, this would mean finding a club that revolves around something that you are already interested in or would consider a hobby. While getting involved comes with numerous benefits socially and academically, it comes to a point where even something you are doing for enjoyment comes with an air of obligation. Mixed with an overwhelming amount of assignments, work schedule, and social commitments, suddenly the last thing you want to do is what you used to do for fun.
For college students, especially those who live on campus, this leaves them with an incredible amount of steam that needs to be let out. The last thing they want to do is anything that feels remotely like work or anything that carries a semblance of responsibility. Chances are they may have been cooped up in their dorms or apartments all week. Suddenly, there’s only one idea that sounds like their saving grace from a stressful week: Partying.
Now, I am not writing this as a means to lecture anybody about what they do with what little free time they are gifted. Especially if they are doing so safely and responsibly. This is where the “but” comes in. Relying on drinking or drug use as a primary outlet when dealing with stress can develop a dangerous habit and usually end up making you feel worse. According to the national survey on drug use and health done in 2021, 49.3% of full-time college students had drunk alcohol in the month prior. About 27.4% of those students had been binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as, “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% — or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter — or more.” Additionally, results from the 2021 survey revealed that “Around 13% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 meet the criteria for past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD).”
PSA statistics aside, it is completely understandable that college students have a tendency to turn to activities that take place in a sweat-infested basement filled with fellow college students when looking to escape whatever plagued them that week.
I believe that if college students allowed themselves to indulge in hobbies during the week, they would not feel the need to escape their minds and bodies so powerfully on the weekend. For example, an article from headtohealth.gov states, “Spending time on an activity that you enjoy can improve your mental health and well-being. In fact, people with hobbies may be less likely to experience stress, low mood, and depression.”
Time in life but especially in college, feels like such a rare commodity. It is sought after and fought for. Just a few more minutes of sleep, more time to finish that one assignment, another day added on to the weekend. Yet when confronted with it, a few short hours that can be free of responsibility, it is almost perplexing what to do. Because if you aren’t crossing something off of your never-ending to-do list, isn’t that time wasted?
John Lennon once said, “The time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time.” Make time for yourself to waste it. Make time to read that book, paint that picture, watch that show. Most of all, enjoy the time you have.
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