Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2023

Why I need to space out

By SOPHIA PARK | September 22, 2022


Recently, I have been faced with a heavy onset of self-doubt. The excitement that typically precedes the beginning of a new semester has been replaced with worry. Although I have always been somewhat of a worry-wart — the easily stressed out, Type A kind of person — this time my anxiety seems rooted in someplace entirely new.

The stress usually directed towards my schoolwork has pervaded multiple aspects of my life. For some reason, others’ words seem to affect me much more now. I get stressed when I hear people mentioning things they’ve heard about me, despite these things typically being fairly positive. I overanalyze conversations I have with my friends, wondering if they now secretly despise me due to one awkward lull in our discussion. 

Moreover, I stress about my future. With one year left, I feel immense pressure to start making career moves. I need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). I need to apply to medical schools. I need to start taking my life more seriously.

I can list several more areas of stress: my conflicting level of “Korean-ness,” my lack of a significant other, my severely damaged, post-bleached-blonde hair... the list goes on. But these things never quite bothered me as much in the past as they all do now, and the typical entropy in my life has suddenly felt exacerbated ten-fold. 

It’s taken me a while to determine why I have felt so uneasy. After a few internal reflections and discussions — aka rants — with some close friends, I realized that these sudden concerns are a product of newfound free time.

As a senior, my class schedule has never been lighter. I have already trekked through the harrowing pre-med courses supposedly designed to be weed-out classes. I have also decided to drop any extracurriculars that have felt overbearing and simply “too much.” Lastly, I have developed a steady weekly schedule with plenty of time to rest and have fun. 

With this, I thought my life would feel more balanced. I thought I would finally have the long-awaited peace and stability that I have been longing for.

The issue is I have never had this much free time. I am used to planning out embarrassingly long daily to-do lists crammed with items I cannot complete. I am used to feeling this constant level of anticipation, which I now realize sounds incredibly bizarre.

Now that I have free time, I imagine I could start a new hobby. I could go back and re-learn the arias I sang when I was a Peabody Institute student or better yet learn how to play the drums like I have always wanted to. I could become a massive gym buff and start making some real “gains.” I could cook one of the countless recipes that I have saved on TikTok. But no, I choose to instead overanalyze and critique every aspect of my life.

I know this sounds like such a useless way to pass time, and I agree; it is quite unproductive and menial. But for some reason, I am great at feeling stressed, even if it means creating my own stressors. 

Now, this brings me full circle: this has to stop. I need to stop indulging myself in this quarter-life crisis of self-doubt. 

This doesn’t mean I need to rid myself of free time. It is okay to take breaks to do nothing, whether that be binge-watching shows on Netflix or taking obnoxiously long naps. And it’s okay to not always have things to do. The flow of life necessitates empty space; there should be pauses in your daily schedule to not only rest your body but also your mind. 

It’s taken me far too long to realize that I don’t need to constantly be “on.” It’s okay for me to pause. I don’t need to necessarily pick up a new hobby to replace my excessive overthinking. I could, but I can also just learn how to spend my free time spacing out. 

Looking at everyone else here, I honestly think a lot of us can benefit from spacing out. So many of us are actively searching for ways to fill empty gaps in our schedules by joining clubs, going out or adding courses. I am really just calling myself out, but regardless we all need to take a breather and learn how to decompress.

You can’t enjoy the highs without experiencing the lows. In that same vein, you can’t perform your best without taking some rest.

I’m not saying we should never feel stress again, but it’s certainly not okay to be addicted to it. Furthermore it’s okay to have insecurities, but they shouldn’t fill up all the space in our little heads. As the poets said long ago, you only live once (#yolo).

Sophia Park is a senior from Toronto, Canada studying Behavioral Biology. She is a Magazine Editor for The News-Letter.

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