Today at lunch, I was talking to my professors about the end of the term, and they were talking about the lack of competition among students at Carleton. I generally agree about that point, with one exception: we are constantly in a competition to one-up our peers about who is the most stressed and has the most work and sleeps the least. Frankly, it’s exhausting just to keep up.
“I’ve got two papers and a midterm tomorrow!”
“Well, I have three papers, two midterms, a lab report, and I slept three hours last night!”
“I have to finish three grant proposals, write an entire research paper, run a track meet, layout the entire newspaper, study for three midterms and read two books!”
Obviously these are exaggerations, but I truly do feel that the only ways through which Carleton students truly compete with each other. It’s a constant competition to see who has the most work, who is the most stressed, and who is the most miserable, and it’s exhausting just to keep up with it.
When I expressed this to the professors at the table, they laughed and admitted that they do it themselves--”I have thirty tests to grade!” versus “I have fifty students this term!” and the like. Although I found this very funny, I also genuinely wonder why we do this. What’s the point? To convince everyone that you’re more miserable than they are, so you’re somehow winning? What are you even winning here?
I joked about this to my professors, but I find it an endless source of bemusement. We rarely talk about grades here at Carleton, and people who do ask other people what they got--on tests, papers, entrance examinations, whatever--are usually looked down upon. But the constant “I have more work than you” one-upping is largely accepted and ignored.
Why is this? I wish I could offer a solution, but I seriously don’t understand. Who are you impressing? Yourself?
We all have rough nights and terms and we all know the value of working hard. So why do we insist on backwardly bragging about it to each other?