Column: Do not treat apathy as your enemy


The Maroon



Around this time of year, everyone’s feelings are split between desperation and apathy. Finals come due – major projects and papers and exams, all of which weigh heavily on whether you pass or fail or how well you do in passing. But people are also exhausted from a year’s worth of school, and have to fight the urge to give up. These last few weeks feel like a sudden mountain just before the end of a long race, and the urge can often be to sit down and refuse to climb.

But apathy is not a bad thing, if you learn how to use it.

No one likes finals. As a culmination of everything you’ve learned in class they make a certain degree of sense, but sometimes they take the wrong form – an exam in a class structured towards discussion, or a presentation when the previous assignments have focused on writing. Sometimes even the finals that make sense seem unfair. And when this occurs, we are tempted to stop somewhere on the mountain and just sit for awhile.

So do it. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. There’s nothing wrong with deciding this moment you are too tired to continue. We often treat our apathy as if it’s an enemy to be staved off when it’s really more a sign of how tired we are and how much we need to rest.

The trick is to set limits and to know yourself. A break that spirals into six hours of Facebook binging is generally not constructive, but neither is a guilt-ridden, panicked fifteen minutes spent distracting yourself from an assignment. Know your tendencies and work to control them. Know your limits and skills and work to use them. How long does it take you to write a paper? How long does it take you to write a paper well? If you understand these facts about yourself, then perhaps you can afford an hour of reading or go out for a quick drink with friends before you return to complete that paper. Stepping away for a while can do wonders for your perspective.

Apathy is only the enemy when it prevents you from finishing the race – when you choose to sit down on your path and refuse to stand up and get moving again. If you’re coming right up against the deadline, apathy is an obstacle, and one that needs to be overcome. But if you know yourself and what you’re capable of, then apathy is just a tool. Can you write a decent paper in eight hours? Do you have two days? Then don’t punish yourself for taking some time to goof around with friends or drift aimlessly through the internet.

Apathy, like all things in life, is only an enemy in excess. Understand what you’re capable of and how much rest you need (physically, mentally and emotionally), and you’ll be better able to conquer, not just finals, but the larger problems in life. The key to running a good race, after all, is pacing yourself, and sometimes that requires slowing to a crawl and luxuriating in your own lack of speed.

Daniel Quick can be reached at [email protected]