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A triple-major in scheduling


Sometimes I joke that everything at Duke boils down to a scheduling problem. As bookbagging begins, I see all of the classes and interests that I can't pursue simply because the times don’t match up. The difference from developing a relationship with a professor has sometimes boiled down to whether or not I had another class during their office hours. I like to add talks and events to my calendar only to realize later that I can't go because of a scheduling conflict. Last column, I mentioned how Arianna Huffington likes to schedule her sleep.

These logistical scheduling issues don’t just affect our academics and health though. They affects students socially as well. Staying in touch with friends usually means finding mutual open spots in our Google Calendars (if times don't line up well, good luck staying friends). Large group hangouts quickly turns into scheduling nightmares. Someone else may be open to having a deep insightful heart-to-heart one night, and I may only want to focus on that important midterm tomorrow. And is it really a convenient coincidence that nightlife at Duke often starts around midnight, when people (hopefully) don't have other things scheduled? Even then, the pressure to have something fun to do on a Friday night is very real.

David Brooks once wrote about how the lack of intellectual community at Princeton led to a group of students starting a regular discussion group to talk about topics like "millennialism, postmodernism, and Byzantine music." He concluded with the comment: "If discussion can be scheduled, it can be done." I have un-ironically asked multiple people to export their schedules from DukeHub so that I could add them to my own calendar. As someone who would like to write out hourly schedules more often than not and lives by Google Calendar, I like to think that in an ideal world, scheduling my time wisely would allow me to make time for things I want, devote sufficient times to things I need, and give a slight sense of control over my life.

At the same time, it can't be a coincidence that all my close friendships have stemmed from unplanned two hour conversations that somehow wormed their way into my day. It can't be a coincidence that many of my favorite experiences have happened by chance—simply by being in the right place at the right time.

There are some things that are almost always scheduled: classes, extracurriculars, meals with people and other meetings. There are some things that seem borderline ridiculous to schedule: free time, sleep, a 2 hour conversation with a friend. And then there are some thing that straight up cannot be scheduled: a friend who may need help, an interesting event happening on the quad,  time to restructure another commitment. It seems ridiculous to give one category disproportionate influence over the others. Just because there is room in a schedule doesn't mean that it has to be filled; leaving open chunks of time allows for spur of the moment plans. Having open time allows us to balance our schedules with things we may need or not need depending on the week—an extra hour on a paper or problem set, time to rest, or time to catch up with a friend.

Every time someone tells me that they liked my column, I can be sure that this is  someone who's willing to have a conversation about the topic. And yet so often, I just say "Thanks!"—or if I’m feeling a bit wordier, "Thanks! I'm glad you liked it." Rarely do I ask follow-up questions about what they thought or whether they have any ideas. And as I mentioned two weeks ago, how should one feel about the friend who cancels plans because she's tired—happy that she's prioritizing her health, or annoyed at our flaky generation?

Last year, Shruti Rao wrote a column on finding spontaneity at Duke, reflecting on how a spontaneous road trip to DC made her think about whether she "was focusing on making time throughout my day to incorporate something that brings [her] or people around [her] joy." But how much of that can be accomplished by a retreat like the ones people generally speak favorably about: Common Ground, the Duke Authenticity Project for first year students, assorted club retreats, and some pre-orientation programs? These perhaps are the ultimate scheduling monsters—asking for an entire chunk of time with which to do nothing else.

Scheduling allows us to selectively choose the people with whom we want to spend time, giving us an excuse to narrow our interests. And yes, while specialization is good, at what cost does it come? Having a full calendar is kind of like triple majoring. Undoubtedly it is difficulty and undoubtedly there are benefits, but there is a reason it’s banned at a liberal arts school like Duke, at least in Trinity (Good luck Pratt).

Amy Fan is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, "fangirling," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

Amy Fan | fangirling

Amy Fan is a Trinity senior. Her column, "fangirling," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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