Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy Harvard

Why you should not do any work for the next week

I stare blankly at my computer screen. Several cups of coffee just aren’t doing it for me today. I’m reading the computer science code over and over again, but none of it is sinking in. At this point, I’m just flipping through the pages of past exams. If these papers are any indication of the level of difficulty of tomorrow’s midterm, then it’s going to be a rough night.

I can’t take it anymore. I shut down my computer, pour myself a glass of whiskey, and go to bed. It’s 11:04 p.m.

As I lay in bed, my mind drifts. When was the last time I went to bed before midnight? I feel oddly comfortable. This is the first time in my life I have given up on studying for a midterm. This is the first time I have shot myself in the foot when it came to grades. Before now, no matter how hard the material I have encountered, I would have rather allowed my roommate to literally shoot me in the foot than to let myself throw away a grade so easily.

It’s that time of the year, and I have had enough. And I know I am not the only one. It is two days until the Game, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. No matter where I go, I hear students speak longingly about Thanksgiving dinners with their parents. I see their looks of despair as they queue up to have their bags checked by Lamont security for the umpteenth time this week. Everyone is tired. And all of you deserve a break.

College is not just about maximizing your GPA and handing in everything on time. Sometimes, it is better if we sit back, relax, and just enjoy the fantastic show that is our time at Harvard. Overworking yourself not only stresses you out to the point that you cannot enjoy other aspects of your Harvard experience, but it will also negatively impact your grades in the long term.


We always talk about “midterm season” and “hell weeks,” but let’s be honest. There is no “midterm season.” There are no “hell weeks.” Harvard, like any other university, is a constant onslaught of papers, projects, presentations, and midterms. The work never stops. We students are prone to a dangerous line of thought: If I can just get this one paper in or finish this one midterm or submit this one project, then everything is going to be okay. This attitude will only lead to continual disappointment, as you slowly realize that the workload is not getting lighter and you are simply running out of steam as the semester continues to drag on.

The problem here is not about the amount of work we have. Harvard, like any top tier school, is meant to challenge us to perform in high-pressure situations. Rather, we need to change our attitudes towards the way we tackle work. The attitude of “it’ll be over after the next one” will only stress you out when you tackle your next assignment, which will affect your performance in the long term. We need to escape this mentality, which will only hinder our potential to perform on other assignments throughout the semester.

I have found that the best way to inject energy into myself is to break my dull class-study-worry-eat-worry-study-sleep routine. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant in the Square? When was the last time that you and your blockmates took a trip to Boston? When was the last time you saw a film in theaters? If you are a Lamonster, ban yourself from studying there over the weekend. Riverlings should try studying in the Quad and keep the lonely Quadlings company.

This is not to say that some people have not gotten it right. Last week, I visited my friend and found her two roommates watching “Mean Girls” while giggling in bed. It turns out that they spent their entire Saturday having a movie marathon. I was shocked. Did they not have any work to do? Why weren’t they at a meeting for one of the seven extracurricular activities they must be a part of? It was strange to think that it is possible to have a good time at Harvard without constantly worrying about the next step. College is meant to be the best time of our lives—so we should stop fussing, relax a little bit, and make it the best time of our lives.

So I am not going to do a single problem set, do any readings, or study for any tests this weekend. I will muster as much school pride as I can and be ridiculous with my blockmates at the tailgate. I may even chant, “It’s all right, it’s okay, you’re going to work for us someday” at some poor Yalies. I will then fly off to Puerto Rico with my best friends and continue to do no work whatsoever. Because I know when I get back, I will be able to head into a new round of work revitalized, optimistic, and focused. Join me, and be equally lazy as I am at the moment because, to use the oft-quoted phrase, you only live once.

Heather L. Pickerell ’15, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.


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