Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 21, 2024

I’m always in a rush, and it’s the Hopkins normal

By BUSE KOLDAS | March 8, 2024

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COURTESY OF BUSE KOLDAS

Koldas reflects on becoming accustomed to an uncomfortably hectic schedule.

As I scarf down my usual rushed lunch at Hopkins Cafe, it occurs to me that I no longer enjoy eating. I eye my plate: cauliflowers, carrots, green beans, chicken, macaroni and cheese and breadstick. An M&M cookie lies to its left, resting on the napkins I sloppily collected from the dispenser. My mug is filled with soy milk and I’m watching my Physics 2 pre-lectures on my computer.

I check the time. I need to start walking in exactly six minutes otherwise I will be late for my job, but my plate is still half full. I need to be strategic, so I eat my breadstick quickly. Of the food that’s left, it will keep me full the longest. 

One minute left. I stand up, slosh down the soymilk while walking and put my dishes on the conveyor belt. I don’t wear my coat so I save up time. Today is a little rainy, but it’s a short walk if I walk fast. As I’m putting my Airpods in and walking to the exit, I turn to my left and look at all the familiar faces and see how similar they are to me.

Some sit by themselves, as far away as possible from the other human being sitting on the table, either absorbed in work, wearing their headphones or doing some reading. I wonder: Did they even look at what they’re eating? Do they even taste it or swallow it once they decide it’s edible enough? Why do they feel like they need to be productive every second of the day? Why do I? 

Should I find this comforting? That I’m not the only one with this struggle? That when I tell my friend I can’t go to breakfast because I was too sleep-deprived to get out of bed, they laughingly admit they never have breakfast? That on a night I could only manage five hours of sleep, some others got less than two? That they don’t have time to call their parents or ask their hometown friends how their life is going either?

Worst of all, I feel like I can not complain, because this is the Hopkins normal — and I signed up for it when I submitted my Early Decision application a year ago. This is a rush I got myself into knowingly when I constructed my schedule in such a way that allowed me only 30 minutes to stuff food into my mouth or when I decided to sacrifice leisure time for job shifts. Why do I do this to myself?

No matter how busy I force myself to be, I can not get over the feeling that I’m not making the most out of my time; it always seems like those around me are succeeding more than me. I end up taking more responsibility on my shoulders, and the rush only gets more intense, yet the feeling of inadequacy never leaves.

This is the realization that sets in as I continue to inspect people’s faces on my way out of Hopkins Cafe: how we catalyze each others’ misery by being “the person who succeeded more than me” in someone else’s story, so our lives turn into timed competitions. Who will make the most out of their 4 years at Hopkins?

So, we try to do it all at the same time. Rushing to meet deadlines, checking the time by the minute, starting new countdowns over and over again... These make time pass oddly fast, because we concentrate on the result (the relief of “getting the job done”) to the extent that we forget that we are living, not surviving.

It has been seven weeks since this semester started, and I regret that I let the time pass me by, because I was so caught up in the resulting success that I forgot that progress also matters. Now, I’m scared: Will the weeks to come pass this fast, too? Have I made any memories I will look back to when I’m old in these past seven weeks?

I vaguely remember some, although I’m not sure if they could be called “memories”: my stressful run from Bloomberg to Shaffer so I’d be on time for the quiz; how my hands were trembling during the Physics midterm because I realized I wasn’t going to finish the test on time; scrolling on TikTok mindlessly while watching the time pass by on the top left corner of my phone.

The rush is so tiring that my mind is always blurry, and I can’t get out of it because I don’t know any better. I use all my energy to keep up with the rush so I don’t have the strength to force myself to remember to make memories. Now that I think about it, do I even remember what I ate for lunch today? I only have the taste of bread in my mouth, but I can’t reach my water bottle in my bag because I don’t want to be late.

Buse Koldas is a freshman from Istanbul, Turkey majoring in Computer Science and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She is a Social Media Manager for The News-Letter. Her column discusses how her past experiences have affected her, with the hope of making others feel seen and understood.


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