The past two weeks, all I’ve done is say that I want to get lunch with people, not get lunch with over half of the people I’ve said I want to get lunch with, and then get lunch with people during every single lunch of every single day.
And I’m overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed because there are so many people on this campus who I care about so deeply. Who I want to spend time with. Who I want to be there for.
But there just aren’t enough lunches in the day or enough days in the week.
Overwhelmed because I’ve realized that I need more alone time than I admit.
Overwhelmed because us getting a meal together only makes me care about you more. Only makes me want to be there for you more, spend time with you more, know you even better.
Overwhelmed because I know you’ll ask if I want to do this again some time and I know that I’ll say yes.
Overwhelmed because I just said yes when I already know I have lunch plans every single day next week.
Overwhelmed because I know I’ll pick a day with you and just have two lunches that day.
Overwhelmed because now it’s next week and I just finished having lunch with two people and now I’m sobbing alone in my apartment because I just spent two hours with two awesome people and feel like I need to keep those relationships going but that’s two hours I should have spent catching up on 300 pages of reading. When am I going to do this reading because I’m being quizzed on it in two days?
Overwhelmed because now I have to go to class and after that give a tour and after that get to the lab for my research gig and after that host a sisterhood event for my sorority and then get to bible study and now it’s 9pm and fourteen people have texted me asking me how I’m doing because they ran into me today and saw that I wasn’t smiling and they’re worried about me and are asking if I want to get lunch. But all I want to do is curl up in a ball on my bed and sleep but I have an 8:30 so what is sleep anyway.
How do I tell you that I really want to hang out but I just don’t have time? How do I say that without you thinking, “But none of us have time! You have to make time! And obviously you don’t want to make time for me… You don’t care about me…”
I do care! I care so much!
But I’m exhausted. I have so much homework.
And as much as I care about you, I also should care about myself. I should work out. I should go to bed a little earlier. I should catch up on my readings.
But then I think about how I’ll never actually catch up. I’ll never have less work. I’ll never get more sleep.
So I may as well get lunch. Because I want to. And because taking care of myself is too hard.
But then after I get lunch I’ll have a breakdown about how I shouldn’t have gotten lunch because I have too much I need to do.
This is me for the past two weeks.
This endless mind game of: Do I get lunch or not?????
This is why when you’ve seen me around campus and tried to make small talk with me, I’ve looked dazed, had bags under my eyes, and seemed stressed as Hell.
I am stressed as Hell.
Because I have never had so much homework in my entire life and because taking care of myself is hard and because being there for my friends is hard and because life is hard.
But these things aren’t actually overwhelming.
What’s overwhelming is looking around and feeling like I’m the only one who feels this way. Like I’m the only one who is sleep deprived, who can’t find time to take care of herself, who has an insane amount of work, who feels like a bad friend, who is behind in her reading, and who feels overcommitted.
And that’s when it hit me that I’ve fallen for the Effortless Perfection of Duke culture.
Me! The girl who preaches vulnerability and repeatedly tells the world that I struggle and so does everyone else! Me! The girl who is usually perceptive and introspective and okay with being different and myself! Me! I fell for it!
These past two weeks I was just another victim of the culture.
I allowed myself to believe that the people around me have it all together and that I am alone in my struggles.
I allowed myself to believe that saying I’m socially overwhelmed isn’t a valid enough reason not to be okay.
I allowed myself to believe that telling my friends I need some time to myself is wrong, is selfish, is unacceptable.
And I allowed myself to believe that “getting lunch” is what actually fosters relationships.
Yes, getting lunch helps. But it’s not everything.
What really fosters relationships is spending time with people. Not a 45-minute lunch. A time of real, set-aside time for laughing, crying, just being in each other’s presence.
So, no, I don’t want to get lunch with you. I’m overwhelmed with my commitments and am behind in my work. I haven’t gotten more than six hours of sleep in weeks and I can’t find time to be alone. I’m more introverted than I admit and sometimes spending time with even my most favorite people is exhausting. I’m stressed out and not adjusted to sophomore year. I miss home and my family.
I don’t want to get lunch because what I want to do is be with you. Coexist with you. Study beside you. Laugh about an old inside joke. Skip the small talk and unleash the deeper stuff. Get right to how we’re really doing and give each other advice. I don’t want to sit back and eat my salad and tell you that my classes are hard. It’s just not getting anywhere. And it’s exhausting.
I know we both don’t have time to set aside chunks of time just to coexist together and to hang out. I know that such a time could only maybe happen every other week, if that. But I’d rather spend quality time with you every other week than get a rushed lunch every week.
I’ve had some amazing lunches these past two weeks, I really have.
But comparing them to the times I’ve just run into a friend in the library and studied beside her and interrupted her every now and then to show her a Buzzfeed article and taken a break to go on a walk and have her cry on my shoulder and say that she just can’t do it all and have me cry right there with her and say me neither and then for us to pick ourselves back up and read 50 more pages and know that together we lived life together and admitted our struggles and faced life head on, THOSE times were even better than the lunches.
Those times were less calculated, more natural. I wasn’t thinking about all the work I needed to do. I wasn’t in a crowded restaurant asking you deeper questions only to be interrupted by the buzzing of The Loop pager. And I was able to know how you’re really doing.
“We should get lunch!”
No, we shouldn’t. I don’t want to.
I want to get dinner, where the only time constraint is a long night of homework, not more classes or meetings. I want to study with you, where no one is around and we can goof off and also be serious. I want to go with you to fill up your car with gas, be by your side for the errands you need to run. I want to take a study break to Cookout with you, to get away from campus and deep talk in your car. I want to go on a run with you and be high on Endorphins as you tell me about your boy problems. I want to just be with you. Because being with you is so much less exhausting. It’s so much more real. And it’s how we actually foster the relationship we both want.