A Showdown performance lasts five minutes, and yet, groups have poured hours of their academic years into preparing for that one moment. The Boston Marathon’s course is 26.2 miles and takes, for the average runner, around four and a half hours, but students have been devoting far more time and hundreds of miles to training. Organizations at Boston College spend weeks planning speaker events that last all of two hours, if that.
Why do we put so much time, effort, and energy into something relatively fleeting?
For most people, how well they do in events for which they’re training won’t lead to a job. I spend hours each week practicing a dance for Arts Fest, and I can confidently say that I’m not looking for a career in the arts. But there I am, every Wednesday night, practicing the same sequences over and over, seemingly just for the fun of it. I wasn’t born to perform-though I think some of my fellow dancers definitely were-but I get a certain joy out of it, nonetheless.
So many extracurricular activities that we as college students take on are for the sake of our resumes. If we’re in enough volunteer groups, clubs, and teams, we tell ourselves that we’ll be okay. Maybe we stick with these seemingly pointless activities because we just like them, no matter the end result. We like being able to do something that’s not terribly important for a little while.
The thing is, half of the time these “just-for-fun” activities can still stress you out precisely because you’re not doing more important things. I know there are days when the last thing I want to do is go to dance practice, whether it’s because I’m exhausted or because it’s too cold outside and I have work to do.
Do we just like being busy? In class a few weeks ago, one of my professors said that we students seem to like to keep ourselves so busy and stressed out that we’re two steps away from our breaking points. That seems pretty accurate to me-I hardly know what to do with free time anymore, on the rare occasions when I get it. All of these activities that lead to a few sparkling minutes might just be another way to fill up the time in between classes.
And what happens when those minutes are over, or worse, what if they never even happen?
For hundreds of students across Boston, their marathon training has come to an abrupt end. Many BC students will be able to run in the Campus School’s separate marathon, but just as many have decided that if it’s Marathon Monday or bust, they’d rather bust. What now? That’s something only those runners can answer, but it does circle back to the same question: why do we work so hard toward something so ephemeral?
Eventually, I won’t have to perform my dance anymore. We’ll hit that final spin, Arts Fest will be over, and eventually, I’ll forget every single sequence of moves that I spent all year learning. I will feel good about it, because I completed the goal I set out for myself, and I’ll have a cool video to email home in order to prove that I do, in fact, have some kind of coordination and balance, but that’s about it.
What’s it all for?
I can’t say that I know the answer, but I think there are a lot of factors. Yes, we like to do things we enjoy just for fun, and yes, we like to be busy. But we also like to achieve. Humans, I think, are more goal-driven than any other creature. We do well in high school to get to college, study hard in college to get a job, and get a job to make money and live a comfortable life. Everything has a purpose, and we might not be able to justify doing anything unless it results in something good for us or for other people.
Think about it. If, as a kid, your parents told you to take out the trash, you probably didn’t ever want to do it. Your incentive, though, was likely to avoid getting yelled at and to gain the peace that comes with that. Now, we’ve moved on from trash duty to dance practice, marathon training, and event planning. As long as whatever we do leads to some sort of accomplishment, no matter how small or short-lived, we can justify all that time we spent on it in the first place.
So, we keep planning and scheming, because for every goal we hit, we feel a little bit better about ourselves, a little bit prouder, a little bit more special.