Art by Ally Armstrong
It seems as though the word “no” does not exist in the vocabulary of Pepperdine students. From the moment freshmen step onto campus during NSO to the day seniors walk across the graduation stage, it feels as if there is no time to slow down and be alone.
What seem like thousands of clubs and organizations ask students to give them their time within the first few days of a new school year. If students decide to say “no,” there is a fear that doing so will minimize their entire undergraduate experience.
Not even a month into their Pepperdine careers, freshmen are asked to decide which country they will spend a semester or two in during their sophomore year. It feels as though there is not an option to stop and think through the time commitments for the next four years.
With a culture of saying “yes” and doing more, how can students prioritize being alone as something positive?
A 2017 survey conducted by the American College Health Association showed that 64% of surveyed students felt “very lonely” in the past 12 months. Pepperdine’s campus is conducive to feeling isolated, especially if students are not living in suite-style housing like freshmen or transfer students.
Whether it is openly discussed, Pepperdine students are likely to struggle with loneliness, just like any other college students. But if students are offered numerous outlets to overcommit their time, they are not faced with downtime to be alone and think about how they compare to others.
This inability to say “no” creates an environment of isolated loneliness versus a healthy and restorative time to be alone. Students are in a state of constant busyness, and the times that they are not preoccupied feel all-consuming.
How, then, can students feel like they are engaging in meaningful work and taking intentional time for themselves without feeling the heavy weight of isolation?
First, it can be beneficial to lay out their potential commitments and prioritize them. By identifying what is extremely important to say “yes” to and what can fall to the back burner, commitments that are both personally valuable and life-giving can be given the time to be done well.
Second, students should be mindful of why they say “yes” to things. It is OK to be busy and have a full schedule if it is filled with things that personally matter. But if commitments that hold no personal value are filling up space, reevaluate why it is a current commitment and create free time for rest.
Finally, growing in the ability to be alone has numerous psychological benefits. Solitude allows people to reset their brain, increase productivity and improve the quality of their relationships. If students begin to see time alone as something they choose and not as an act of undesired isolation, there is room for personal growth.
Change in a community’s culture requires action from the individuals who make up the community. As students, it is important to give each other grace in scheduling, commitments and decisions to take time for themselves.
Be mindful of the things that are worth saying “yes” to, and be OK with the things that need to be told “no.”
Email Lexi Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org