Chapman culture: when does busy become over-involved?

On any given day Tyler Porterfield, senior public relations and advertising major, can be found in the Argyros Forum, leading a student government meeting, guiding a tour through the Attallah Piazza, sitting in a public relations class at the Marion Knott Studios, or on stage at a Greek life event performing with her sorority sisters.

Yes, she’s stressed. But then, who at Chapman isn’t?

“Being stressed is normal. That’s just how Chapman does it,” said Porterfield. “We all love to be so involved, and we love to get to know the people around us.”

As the SGA vice president, Chapman University tour guide, member of the Black Student Union, Gamma Phi Beta sorority, and Chapman 50, and the Spirit of Chapman award recipient, Porterfield embodies the very heart of the university.

Students like Porterfield know the spirit of Chapman. It’s passionate, involved, devoted, hardworking and driven. But it’s also a little sleep deprived, a little overloaded and a lot more stressed. So if these are the side effects of overcommitting, why do Chapman students continue to do it?

Because they love to do.

They’re successful students, accomplished career builders and devoted members of their various organizations. They seek responsibility and relish in purposeful living. For most, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

“I like having a purpose and feeling valuable. I like being a part of different teams so that everywhere I go, I’ll know people and feel welcome,” said Nikki Nguyen, a sophomore business major.

She is editor of Chapman University’s Her Campus, guest relations supervisor for the union and gym, Hawaii Club member and a Nguyen’s Kitchen employee.

Shaden Beltran, a sophomore strategic and corporate communications major, is a first-generation middle school, high school and college student. As an Alpha Kappa Psi pledge, Rocky Horror Picture Show cast member and employee of the Office of Admissions and Wise Guys Pizzeria, Beltran does all she can to make her parents proud—all while paying for her own education.

Despite the pressure she feels daily to succeed, it’s entirely self-imposed.

“There’s always been that pressure to make my parents proud and make a future for myself,” she said. “I know my parents have made a lot of sacrifices, so I kind of feel like I need to pay them back by working hard.”

These kinds of students keep hectic schedules to avoid boredom and laziness, preferring a packed schedule over hours of free time. Perhaps the problem with these students is that they just don’t know how to sit still.

“He who works the longest wins. He who is the busiest wins. It’s almost like a badge of honor,” said Michelle Dexter, a Chapman psychology professor.

At what point did our culture translate “successful” into “busy”? Why can’t students learn to admire people who are healthy, who are happy, and who sleep more than three hours per night?

“If a culture values accomplishment, then being busy brings you status. And cultural values don’t have to be explicitly expressed. They can be felt,” said Dexter.

In her view, since we live in a constant state of societal pressure to stay busy, the root of the problem is living mindlessly instead of mindfully.

“We get up early, drink your first cup of coffee, run around and do a hundred things, and then at the end of the day fall into bed exhausted,” said Dexter. “After a while we begin to wonder what it’s all for.”

According to Dexter, who teaches a psychology class on health and wellness, living mindfully means taking time to consider your own mental, physical and spiritual health throughout your day. Whether that means making healthy meal choices, taking a 15-minute power nap to recharge or re-evaluating your time commitments—balance is key.

But when your lifestyle is so deeply ingrained in the mindless, busy culture, it’s hard to get out.

Oftentimes, students caught up in the stress cycle into chronic complainers. They will start a conversation with “I’m so tired!” and proceed to rattle off their to-do list to any classmate, co-worker, or Starbucks barista who will listen.

While the source of their complaints might be exhaustion or a form of venting, some students turn into “busy braggers,” individuals who enjoy touting their packed schedules to their peers.

The line between venting and bragging is thin.

Olivia Harden, a sophomore english major, member of the Black Student Union, writer for The Panther and the Foothill Sentry, host of a radio show, theater performer and dancer, talks about her involvement often because she is truly proud of each activity, and wants to spread the word to others.

However, Porterfield believes students sometimes complain as a cry for help. Despite her own crazy schedule, she finds time to provide emotional support for her overwhelmed friends.

“As members of the Chapman family, we don’t want each other to burn out. We want each other to flourish. That’s why we need to remind each other to take care of ourselves,” said Porterfield.

On the other hand, Beltran believes such venting is unjustified.

“Don’t complain about something if you put yourself in that position,” said Beltran. “You need to be grateful for what you have. If you’re putting yourself in a situation, you need to cope with it. The responsibility is on you.”

For most, the hardest part of being overly ambitious college students is learning to say “no” when their plate is too full. However, these students still understand the importance of “me time.” From Netflix-binging, to hot showers, to home-cooked meals, even overachievers take a little time for self-care.

“Although you could be there for other people, you need to be there for yourself,” said Porterfield. “That’s a very important lesson to learn in college.”

Porterfield also reminds students to create their own college experience, avoid peer pressure to overcommit, and to participate in activities that they truly love.

“It’s about your experience, not other people’s experience,” Porterfield said.

Even if it’s hard to find time to take a breather, Dexter encourages students to seek out work that brings them joy in order to live mindfully.

“Choose the work that makes you happy,” she said. “Because if you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Porterfield loves all that she does, and can’t imagine going through college without all of the busyness.

“It might be insane and crazy,” Porterfield said. “But it’s so worth it when you think about all of the memories that you made and the people that you have met.”

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