The Extent of Performance

“I am on the music staff for WERS, the production team for WECB, and also the imaging assistant for that. I’m on crew for GME, The Dish, and Amped. I work at Anthropologie… I’m also a peer tutor.” On top of all of this, Micaela Cain, junior sound design major, takes the typical 16 hours of classes per week. There was no hint of bragging or complaint in her voice—just genuine speech. I’ve heard professors talk about and around the human condition; the Emerson condition, however, is an entirely different conundrum.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t fall for the hype. In addition to my four classes, I work at least 25 hours a week at Panera Bread. Since adding work to my school schedule, I’ve noticed a shift in my personality, and it’s made me wonder—is busyness a way to stay alive or just another way to compete at our school? I only have four classes and one job… but is it enough? Even compared to other students’ busy schedules it often it feels like too much. I go to bed before midnight most nights because I wake up at 5:30 at least two days of the week. I feel vulnerable to judgment when I say I work but am involved in no school organizations. Everyone else seems to have their lives together. They have school, boyfriends, girlfriends, pets, apartments, jobs, internships, clubs, busyness… but why? Kathy Nguyen, junior marketing major, said, “It’s ‘so Emerson’ for a student to pile on so many things so that they have it on their [resume]… I feel like they bite off more than they can chew.”

Emerson spits the image of the real world— out there people are mean. We live in downtown Boston so we know what it’s like to be shoved around on the T and called a disappointment in class.

But have we lost our humanity amongst our fellow students? I hear so many students speaking critically about each other, even their friends. We all have to one-up one another. If you’re not working for the Emerson Channel, producing three plays, auditioning to host the Evvy’s, or the president of the SGA, you might as well be a nobody. “The film people [especially] seem to feel entitled and like to brag about what they do,” said an anonymous VMA student. Here, we’re all so busy trying to get on top that we forget to offer the ladder to someone else every so often.

Yet some students remain hopeful. “Many [Emersonians] will speak negatively of how tired they are but when discussing what they’re so busy with (theatre, music, sports, film) it’s usually all positive. People here really seem to enjoy what they do,” said Patrick Naughter, freshman cinematography major.

Instead of finding community in a school we’ll never attend again, many of us seem to speed through our four years in a frenzy. I know that I rarely make time to reflect. That doesn’t mean that we don’t make time to party. Allston is just a T-ride away for some of us, and home for others.

We’re a communications school whose students don’t know how to express how they really feel. In overhearing strangers speak, and even just listening to myself, I wonder if Emersonians are showoffs or simply actually this suicidal in the interest of furthering our careers. In a particularly nasty session of my discussion-based nonfiction class two weeks ago, the students were tearing each other’s opinions apart. It was so objective and there was so much aesthetic distance that I just wanted to scream, “What are we even talking about anymore?” For example, one student would make a comment about the piece, and the next comment would come from across the room: “Some people think this, but—”

…It was always very clear who “some people” was.

None of the people in the room could turn to face the person he or she disagreed with and say, “You are wrong to me, and here’s why.” We live at extremes: either we kill ourselves at work or kill each other at play. There’s no happy middle ground between the pressure to stay busy and the result—fatigue and bragging rights.

“I wish I had the luxury of sleeping until one p.m. Some of us have to wake up early to work,” I heard myself saying with snotty intent to a peer one day before class. In cashing in my free time, it seems I cashed in my empathy. It would reflect poorly on Emerson as an educational establishment to leave here exhausted and bitter, but with our tones of complaint, this appears to be the road a lot of us are taking.

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