EdBoard: what Carnival means

Credit: Grayson Ticer/ Credit: Grayson Ticer/
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Carnegie Mellon students know a lot. We know complicated programming languages, lines-long physics equations, and convoluted chemistry procedures. We know how to grind and cram and study like there’s no tomorrow. But there is an important lesson that many students have yet to learn: how to take a break.

Carnival weekend is the one time that students allow themselves to loosen up and have a good time. It is a three-day respite from the arduous grind of school work. Students make up for 28 weeks of studying with three days of fun. This is not the healthy balance students need. College is just as much about spending time with friends as it is about cranking out the latest problem set. The late nights spent talking are much more memorable than the ones spent pounding code into a keyboard. Carnival reminds us of this reality, but is it the only time students can fully embrace having fun?

There are a lot of reasons why Carnegie Mellon students can’t calm down. Many are reflective of inner conflicts experienced by members of The Tartan Editorial Staff, too. We understand the pressure to constantly be in motion, engaged in as many extracurriculars and leadership opportunities as possible because the moment we pause to take a breath, we’ll feel like we have too much time on our hands. We have become conditioned to associate relaxation with failure, and it is changing the way we interpret our workload. We see hyper-condensed schedules as right, and moments of reprieve wrong. But, to quote Glennon Doyle from her memoir Untamed, “Right is not real and should is a cage.” We need to embrace Now.

Students need to unlearn their impulse to overwork themselves and spend more time living in the moment. College is a uniquely valuable time in students’ lives. Away from home, students are encouraged to explore not just the world around them but also themselves. While academic obligations are one facet of identity, they are not the central pillar that Carnegie Mellon’s culture quite often makes it out to be. We need to pull our hearts out of the work sometimes, so that we can check our personal barometers for new interests.

Imposter syndrome is experienced across the country on college campuses, but feels especially acute at Carnegie Mellon. To cope, many students plunge into as many activities as is physically possible to engage with — and then some. But students could use the reminder that they’re not the only ones feeling this way. Campus culture encourages people to conflate doing enough with being enough. Who are you to insert yourself into conversation when you’ve never been a computer science teaching assistant? Who are you to share an opinion when you are barely scraping by in your MechE lab? The Tartan Editorial Staff want you to know that regardless of the number of hours you spend on schoolwork, you are enough.

Being in touch with yourself is just as important as tomorrow’s quiz and next week’s lab report. The combined pressures of peer competition and academic expectation make it seem hard to reconcile school with social spaces. There is also the pervasive worry that taking a few hours for ourselves means we have to be alone with our thoughts, a situation many would rather avoid. But it is important for students to be in touch with their needs, not just their academic demands.

Understanding and advocating for yourself are integral to a healthy college lifestyle. Carnival weekend offers students the opportunity to know what it feels like to take a break. And it feels good! Rather than pushing that feeling away, incorporate it into your schedule. Make happiness part of the routine. When exams are prioritized over friendships, joy is kicked down to the basement. But happiness should be as much of a staple in your day as the fridge in the kitchen. Normalize saying no to the things that bring you down and yes to the things that build you up. When Carnival is just one of the many weekends of joy on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, students will have finally achieved success. And with our constant grind, isn’t success what we’re after?