Stressed to impress

You’ve probably encountered everyone’s newest, least-favourite mode of communication: the bragplain.

A relative of the humble brag, the bragplain occurs when an individual construes his or her own success as inconvenient in order to gloat without seeming arrogant.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve encountered the phenomena, consider the following statements: “I wish I could go out with you, but I just have so much work to do. It’s really tough being co-president this year while keeping my average high, I just can’t afford to take a night off like you can …”

“I was really looking forward to yoga, but it looks like I have another breakfast with my team. I would skip but I kind of have to go, being the captain and all …”

Most frequently encountered on social media, the bragplain generally condemns the hectic nature of fitting all of one’s many accomplishments and commitments into the meagre 24 hours in a day.

Even a quick scroll through my Twitter feed reveals such complaints about being overly prepared for lectures and getting in such good shape that their clothing no longer fits.

One person even griped about having too many groceries.

As tempting as it is to write these comments off as the conceited compliment fishing of a few, highly undesirable individuals, it’s hard to deny that sentiment resonates with most students.

Most will be quick to tell you about our huge selection of available clubs — and just as quick to follow up with which ones they run.

Like it or not, being involved, and talking about how involved we are seems to be as integral to the Queen’s experience as tams and late nights in the library.

Jackie Tessier is in her first year of teacher’s college at Queen’s, but having done her undergrad here as well, she’s intimately familiar with the community’s propensity for involvement.

“It’s not just, you know, ‘Go through your degree and enjoy the ride,’ it’s, ‘You have to enjoy the ride and the only way you’re going to do it is by joining this and this and this and this and make sure that you take all the opportunities that are thrown at you in a mildly organized fashion,” said Tessier, ConEd ’16, who plays both soccer for the women’s varsity team and trumpet for Legally Blonde: The Musical.

But even more important to students than the breadth of their involvement was the depth.

“What I’ve come to learn is that everyone kind of finds something that they enjoy and that they can find something.

It’s such a broad community that there’s some little thing our there for everyone,” said Taylor Snow, who stage manages this semester’s major drama production and tutors with the Limestone District School Board.

“Everyone seems to have one thing that they commit themselves to at least,” said Snow, ArtSci ’16.

The problem with our attitude towards involvement lies in this sense of commitment.

It’s one thing to put your all into something you’re passionate about, but what about when that comes at the cost of your health?

Dr. Joan Lacoursière, a family doctor with HCDS, said she’s concerned about the damage that an overcommitted student might be doing to other facets of their life.

Lacoursière often deals with students who struggle to cope with the pressures of involvement.

“What I see is that the healthy lifestyles go by the wayside. So their sleeping gets messed up, their diet, you know, they don’t eat a balanced diet or eat regular meals,” she said.

“They stop exercising is a really big one, and that’s so good for helping with stress management and mood management and just, you know, overall well-being.”

According to Lacoursière, the expectation to be constantly busy is simply unrealistic.

While certain individuals are naturally more equipped to juggle a number of commitments, the pressure of school alone can be overwhelming for others.

Lacoursière believes that the root of the issue can be seen in the approach students take to their schedules.

“I think that the thing that I see as a trend is that it seems almost like, that students don’t recognize the importance of just having that downtime … And not have to be entertaining themselves or distracting themselves, or working, but they can literally just chill, you know?” she said.

“Get a little bored. I think that your generation hasn’t been exposed to that as much because of all the technology and the pressures that are put there and the competition.”

The consequences of crowded schedules do more serious harm to a student than any benefit they might gain from the club.

Furthermore, the threat of adverse effects can even be enough to deter students from getting involved in the first place.

Laura Belford said most first-years are intimidated to join clubs. “I think a lot of people as first-years tend to be hesitant to get involved — I know I am,” said Belford, ConEd ’18.

“Just because you don’t know what the workload is going to be like and it’s so new. There are so many things to join that you don’t know what to join.”

According to Belford’s view, all that bragplaining about having no free time, combined with our eagerness to support more clubs than any one person could possibly name, has created a culture that can be overwhelming for some students. As a result, the actions of involved students might be more likely to discourage others from participating.

But for some students like Rya Marrelli, nothing can dissuade them from getting involved.

“I feel like I’m at a place right now where there’s so much available to me that will never be available to me again so I might as well get everything I can out of it while I’m here,” said Marrelli, ArtSci’15.

This now-or-never approach to extracurricular activities is widely responsible for the cramped schedules running rampant on campus.

Kathleen Chayer, however, said this non-discriminatory approach to extra-curricular activities isn’t necessarily conducive to individual development.

Reflecting back to her high school and first year experiences, Chayer claims to have joined too much, even when the clubs she chose had little significance for her.

“I’m not sure I put a lot of thought into why I was getting involved in stuff, it just seemed like that’s an expectation that I had for myself that I should be and that’s how I made myself feel like I was doing alright in life,” said Chayer, ArtSci ’16.

“I’m currently trying to scale back a bit and also just really be mindful of what I’m choosing to get involved in and why and maybe to take on less, but do a better job with the few organizations that I am involved in.”

If one thing is clear, it’s that students are heavily preoccupied by the implications of their involvement.

Whether they think they’re spread too thin, or haven’t joined enough, the importance of extracurricular activities isn’t lost to anyone on campus.

This tension between wanting to have more time for our friends and wanting to compete with our peers in a competitive job market contributes heavily to feelings of stress.

Every student characterized talking about stress as ranting, whining or complaining.

The stress of keeping busy combined with a fear of arrogance leaves many students with no way to describe how they talk about feeling overwhelmed, thinking of themselves as a nuisance to those they tell.

But despite this, each student said the activities they choose to participate in enhanced their student experiences.

Jared Delarge, ArtSci ’16, said by neglecting to take part in extracurricular activities, students deprive themselves of valuable opportunities for growth.

“I think you’re going to come out with a richer experience at university if you’re more involved,” he said.

“You’re going to meet more people, you’re going to learn a lot of skills through all the activities that you do.

“Whether or not it’s learning how to stay in the tube during innertube water polo or whatever, I think you’re going to learn a lot of skills with any activity that you do.”

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