Time at Stanford is an elusive, confusing creature. When I look back on winter quarter, I’m astounded that it’s already Week 9. Just yesterday, I was driving home from my first college quarter, reflecting on how much my life had changed, and suddenly it’s March and spring break is around the corner.
The weeks have flown by in a whirlwind of midterms, social events, rushed meals and weekend ski trips. But somewhat paradoxically, my individual days have seemed endlessly long.
As Stanford students, we jam-pack our schedules, jumping from obligation to obligation before falling, exhausted, into bed. The way that the weeks on campus seemingly pass faster than the individual days themselves has endlessly confused me as I have slowly adjusted to campus life.
While part of this confusing passage of time simply has to do with the general busy-ness of Stanford students, I think part of it can also be attributed to the fact that we live in an atmosphere full of future-thinking people.
As somebody who came into Stanford extremely undecided in terms of a major, I was overwhelmed by some of my peers who had planned out four years of classes in preparation for the concentrations they had already picked. Similarly, I heard discussions around my dorm about summer plans beginning early in fall quarter.
While this planning ahead is certainly important, it tends to mean for me, at least, that I live my life somewhat perpetually in the future. I’m constantly thinking about the work I need to get done on a given night, the office hours I need to sign up for, the plans I need to schedule for the coming weekend, the summer opportunities I need to apply to.
We are told that it’s important to live in the present, but I’ve found that with the overwhelming focus many Stanford students place on the future, this can be difficult to do. Not only that, but it makes it extremely surprising when weeks pass quickly: We are so busy planning for what is coming ahead that when it actually comes, it is somewhat shocking.
Strangely, while the forward-thinking world pushes me to think about my future, a large part of me also stubbornly tries to hold on to past memories. As a freshman, I want to capture important moments and remember my year well. So it can be easy to feel like I’m in a sort of time-limbo, caught between the quickly vanishing past, the not-so-present present and the fast-approaching future.
When days pass in a sluggish crawl and weeks seemingly spring by, it can be difficult to feel like I am effectively using my time at Stanford.
During winter quarter, my roommate and I started a tradition of watching a “Doctor Who” episode every night before bed. While we sometimes miss nights due to midterms or last-minute cram sessions, we’ve tried to prioritize this 45-minute routine because of how cathartic it can be for both of us. I’ve found that these kinds of activities can be little ways of dealing with the strangeness that is the passage of time on campus.
When I watch the Doctor traveling through space and time, or giggle with my roommate over the adorable David Tennant, it feels as though I have more control over my schedule. By actively choosing to dedicate a portion of my day to this non-academic activity, something that would theoretically add to my stress levels, I strangely feel empowered about how I’m using my own time.
While I’m not advocating watching TV for hours on end instead of studying, I do think there is something to be said for blocking out a period of time each day in which you do something simply for the purpose of enjoyment. I don’t think I’ll ever fully get used to the fleeting nature of time on campus, but I do know that by creating these breaks in my day, I feel slightly less overwhelmed by the fast-paced environment at Stanford.
Contact Julie Plummer at jplummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.