Photo by Rachal Marquez
My favorite professor with whom I have ever taken a class had a tendency to turn our in-class discussions into talks that mattered far beyond the classroom. Discussions in this class ranged from the importance of naming cats to the interplay between philosophy and colors. One day during class, this professor gave a piece of advice that has probably stuck with me more than anything else I have learned so far in my time at Pepperdine. His advice was simple and yet somehow shocking: Do nothing.
Given that most Pepperdine students tend to be high-achieving academically and often overcommitted socially and professionally, most of us in the small class were unsure of how to react to the professor’s words.
Probably at the prompting of our blank stares, this teacher qualified that he did not mean we should do nothing all the time; this was not an instruction to drop all our commitments or act irresponsibly. Rather, he explained that, in the midst of all the things that have our attention — classes, sports, jobs, relationships, internships, surviving — we can’t afford to forget to take time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to do nothing.
Of course, even if we go sit on the edge of the hill on Lower Dorm Road and stare at the water, we’re never really doing nothing. The key, my professor said, was in the stillness. After all, in that moment, you are still breathing, still thinking, still living. And in this stillness, you can find peace if you choose to seek it.
For students like myself, who are always rushing somewhere, taking time out of our days to do nothing can seem illogical, and even irresponsible. And the fact that so many of us at Pepperdine are so overcommitted is not inherently a bad thing; in reality, it is evidence of how driven our student body is, and a large part of the reason we are able to make a real difference in the activities we are involved in.
Still, a 2006 study conducted by a professor at the University of Southern Maine found that 67 percent of students have experienced burnout, which is the condition of exhaustion due to prolonged periods of stress, and if I had to guess, that proportion has probably only increased in the time since.
It can be difficult to not get burnt out, particularly when the average Pepperdine student is so constantly busy. Burnout begins to seep in, and it can feel like there isn’t anything to do except brace and take it. It is during these hectic times that I will happen to run into that professor in the hallway, and without saying a word, I am reminded that there is a time for doing and a time to do nothing. And wisdom comes from knowing the difference.
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