Culture Critique: Stress Should Not be a Measure of Success

We live in a culture that measures success in terms of busyness. Actually, we live in two cultures where this is true: Western culture as a whole, and college culture on a smaller scale. We brag about how little sleep we get because we are up all night working, how little we eat because we are just too stressed and wear the bags under our eyes as badges of honor. 

I catch myself running sometimes. I’m a runner, so yes, you will occasionally catch me getting in some morning miles. But often I’m running in circles. 

“I’m so busy today,” I say to my friends. I tell them about how many papers I have to write and how little time I have to complete them. The pace of my speech as I “bemoan” my workload is almost as fast as my feet as I walk from class to class. 

I put bemoan in quotation marks because it is on these days that I am not really bemoaning my workload at all. I’m proud of my busyness because it makes me feel accomplished and successful. It is on days like these that I try to out-busy my friends. It is also on days like these that I achieve nothing. I bounce from one assignment to another, spinning my wheels. 

While I may complete an assignment, I’m probably not retaining the information. I also feel drained and I don’t really enjoy my day. What I’m really getting out of it is an adrenaline high because I am the “most stressed” today. 

I have other kinds of days though where I try to be a little more Eastern than Western—more mindful than millennial. I have days where I slow down. I “take a moment” between classes to look at the scenery (we do go to a beautiful school). It’s on days like these when I do one or two assignments and really learn. It’s on days like these that I am able to enjoy my friends and be present with them, not have a Who-Can-Be-More-Tired-Off. 

I try to make my peaceful days more frequent than my strung out days. It’s hard though, when our culture tells us that stress equals success and enjoyment equals laziness. 

There’s no right way to go through life. At the end of the day I am an existentialist and I believe we are headed for the inevitable. But why not enjoy ourselves while we’re here? I’ve learned to prioritize feeling good. When I feel good, I do less, and I achieve more. Maybe not more “work,” but more peace and more happiness. Give it a try should the spirit move you.

About Ethan Eisenberg 49 Articles
Ethan Eisenberg is a third-year psychology major and this is his sixth semester on The Oracle. He currently holds the position of Co-Editor-In-Chief, having previously held the positions of Managing Editor and Arts and Entertainment Editor. He feels privileged to exist in and work for a space that has the potential to uplift voices that may not typically be heard; he feels his experiences in psychology and journalism neatly intersect to aid in this process. When Ethan isn't Oracle-ing (yes, he considers it a verb) he is a Research Assistant on the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab, the President of the Evolutionary Studies Club and a Course Assistant for the Evolutionary Studies Seminar. Outside of academia, Ethan enjoys watching horror movies and loving his friends, family and boyfriend, Jayden.