Here’s a shocking, never-before-seen epithet for your listless Monday: I’m a Duke student, and I never feel like I have enough time.

I don’t have enough time to throw myself into my class readings like I want to—that’s because I need to make time for my extracurriculars, for which I don’t have enough time to dedicate, and of course my job, which I’d really rather spend more time on…ad infinitum. 25 hours wouldn’t cut it. And if there’s one thing that unites our campus—at least before the Nov. 10 opener—it’s the feeling of always running from somewhere to somewhere, a starvation of time, the one resource we lost coming to college.

It’s difficult, though, to perceive the void of something that isn’t there. Especially when the absence of time naturally lends itself to less reflection, I usually find myself “busy” without asking why, how or for what purpose. In fact, I never ask myself these questions. But I didn’t have to ask myself—a few weeks ago, a friend asked for me.

It came about as I was asking her for advice. I told her that I’d really begun to like the person I was seeing; I wanted to spend lots of time with him, and that felt good, but it also worried me. “I don’t have enough time to like someone,” I explained. I told her that I have too many things to do, too many responsibilities—the relationship made me happy, sure, but I had classwork and Mock Trial work and real work to reckon with. She was quiet for a moment. 

Then: “Do you love him?” I nodded my head yes. She was quiet again, and then slowly started shaking her head. Finally, she looked up at me. “You don’t have enough time to be in love?”

It felt different when she said it. Though all she’d done was speak my own words back to me, I found myself stumbling. There didn’t seem to be a right reply. Could I really not find time to give to someone I love? Do relationships and work occur on a binary—can I only engage meaningfully in one and not the other? It seemed like a silly question when I posed it to myself, but the idea was the basis of my whole concern: when work and relationships square off, there’s no question which comes out victorious. It isn’t relationships.

Something about that calculus felt wrong, but I quickly brushed the feeling off and went on with my night. There were more pressing things to think about, of course, and doubting a major part of my relationship framework wasn’t one of them. But a few nights ago, that same discomfort unexpectedly bubbled back into my mind. I was having dinner with a few friends when the conversation turned to the incredible people we’d met at Duke. “I knew someone who was a pre-Olympic athlete,” one of my friends said. “This guy I met started an anti-homophobia mission in his town,” another told us. Finally, the last friend sighed. “Duke is probably the only place I’ll ever be surrounded by people this…cool,” he said. “And I still don’t make enough time to be with them.” At that, the wrongness I’d felt a few weeks back began to make sense.

I’ve always operated under the assumption that priorities are fixed: after family comes classwork, of course, and all else falls far beneath that. That’s what I’m at school for, after all: to take classes. Everything else is extracurricular. I have this conception of priorities, I think, because some measure of it is what we have to believe to get us to college. It was an easy decision to make high school coursework—the only well-trodden path to success—a priority. Friendships were an added bonus; they were fun, and sometimes they were meaningful, but they wouldn’t get you into college.

I soon began to realize what that mindset has led me to do at Duke. There’s a part of me that still justifies placing schoolwork above all else—that’s the part that cancels lunch to study for a midterm, the part that cuts great conversations short to write an essay, the part that says, “I don’t have time to like someone.” But that part hasn’t yet realized that things are different. There is no clear-cut endgame like a college acceptance anymore, no minimum GPA, no SAT or ACT. There is only a giant cohort of incredible people from which to learn. Duke is a wonderland of resources, but by far the biggest resource is the students that populate this place. And, selfishly, it’s taken me over a year to understand that.

It’s hard to change your mind; it’s harder still to change your actions. I spent most of my adult(ish) life seeing relationships as tangent to success—it’s embarrassingly painful to set aside my work and go to that lunch, check out that movie or finish that conversation. 

But 60 percent of college students admitted they had felt very lonely in this past year. 30 percent had felt that way in the previous two weeks. In a place designed to breed friendship and connection, this was a little shocking.

I’m so fortunate to have countless inspiring, beautiful people around me. I won’t lose that because I’m “too busy.” I won’t lose that because I don’t commit to them. A poverty of time doesn’t need to mean a poverty of relationships. 

Cameron Beach is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.