Reading Time: 4 minutes
There is a stigma around leisure created by the notion of capitalistic productivity. “Getting no sleep,” “working 24/7,” and “having no life” are all phrases we wear with pride to signify our dedication to our work. The lack of free time almost gives us the validation that we are using our time valuably. The work hard, play hard philosophy has become ingrained into our society with our merit being determined by how hard we work. Whether through making checklists or planning our day to the minute, we structure our day with productive goals in mind. However, when we are not able to check all those boxes, we become filled with productivity guilt, which eventually evolves into a vicious cycle, in which we raise our expectations to make up for lost time, only to fall short of those goals and feel defeated.
For Stuyvesant students, the lack of sleep and free time is endemic. The constant stream of assignments, tests, and extracurricular activities makes relaxing a near-impossible feat. With such little time to themselves, many Stuyvesant students have come to view free time as a precious commodity. However, there exists a distinction between how students spend their time and how students judge what activities are worth their time.
Senior Rubayia Shahrin is fortunate to have two hours of free time a day. During this time, she reads webtoons, manga, and books, or watches television. Occasionally, she enjoys dancing, exercising, and singing karaoke. However, this “free time” is carved out of her sleep time, leaving her with six to seven hours of sleep a night, which is considered decent for a Stuyvesant student. “Wasting time into the night instead of sleeping provides a nice sort of instant gratification for me that I can’t explain. It makes me feel like I’m wasting less time by not sleeping,” Shahrin wrote in an e-mail interview.
Sleep is often labeled as a “waste of time,” not just for Shahrin, but also for many others who think that waking hours are when our time is best spent. Sophomore Brandon Phillips has a different outlook. “I prefer having free time, but I don’t sacrifice sleeping for it,” he said. Even though the amount of free time he has every day can vary from nothing to three hours, he prioritizes a healthy sleep schedule.
The passive nature of sleep leads people to undermine its value. Many tend to believe that time spent sleeping could be used for conscious endeavors, whether those be working or socializing. Succumbing to the irresistible temptation of sleep or relaxing has become a sign of weakness and lack of willpower, but when did this condemnation of leisure take root?
What’s to blame is capitalistic productivity. Schools, workplaces, and practically all establishments operate within a capitalistic framework, emphasizing that our worth is measured by achievement. This structure is often disguised by rewarding those who are able to make it to the top and shaming those who are not able to do so without accounting for variables that may put some at a disadvantage, like low socioeconomic status and less availability to quality education. What this system creates is the expectation that we should sacrifice our needs and invest all our resources into work, translating into burnout and dissatisfaction.
Junior Sequoia Rabinovich is a proponent of a balanced lifestyle, which helps him prevent burnout. “At the end of the day, you do need a break once in a while, and you need to know how to balance it,” he said. He suggested that people be in tune with their needs but cautions that constantly relaxing can become problematic. He also recommended that the quality of free time should not be measured by productivity, but rather by how meaningful that time is. “A way to maximize your free time is to just value free time [...] Do something with it, be productive, be productive in the sense like just go hang out with your friends. Don’t just sit alone on your phone […] Go and do something meaningful,” he elaborated.
In line with his words, Rabinovich enjoys spending his time with those close to him. He finds a sense of community in the fencing team, noting that the team has weekly dinners and its members spend some of their free periods together. Nonetheless, Rabinovich utilizes his other free periods to work on homework and study for tests so that he is able to complete his assignments on time while also having time to relax and socialize with peers.
In true Stuyvesant fashion, procrastination can also be a major factor in determining the amount of free time per night. To ward off procrastination, freshman Adeline Sauberli usually starts working on assignments as soon as possible. “Work on an assignment as soon as possible after learning that it exists, and that way, it won’t be boiling around in your brain for as long until the due date,” Sauberli explained. She emphasized that the payoff of getting work done early is worth the sacrifice. However, like many of her peers, instead of working on finding a good balance, she would rather eat chocolate, play Just Dance, and collect odd rocks. Who can blame her for doing what she loves instead of devoting her life to school?
For every student at Stuyvesant, the work to life ratio is different, and everyone requires different ways to manage the stress the school induces. With tight schedules and busy lives, students can and should find some sanctuary in the fleeting hours of the day when they are free to spend their time however they choose to.