Twenty-eight years ago, Mr. Miyagi uttered four words that would somehow transcend The Karate Kid celluloid, decades of MADtv and Saturday Night Live parodies, and even an entry into the Urban Dictionary. “Wax on…wax off…” Sure, at the time, Mr. Miyagi was teaching an unwitting Daniel the fundamentals of karate, but, we’re college kids now, folks, and it is time to dig a little deeper.
As revealed by “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” the Higher Education Research Institute’s annual student survey, marked decreases in the emotional well-being and skyrocketing stress are at their worst levels since the survey began the year after The Karate Kid was released (don’t worry, it’s all connected), and getting worse.
This, compounded by a recent survey by University of Michigan researchers, which has shown that empathy levels have literally plummeted 40% with our generation, has sparked psychologists like Jean Twenge to coin our current state as a “narcissism epidemic.” Wonderful. We have become those people.
We’ve got so many gnawed-on pencils, the beavers are thinking of subcontracting. Our planners are so occupied there isn’t enough room for even “the one percent.” Our social lives are so vapid and vacuous that we have more intimate details about the “real” housewives of wherever than we have a general knowledge of the kid who sits next to us in lecture Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then again in lab Tuesday and Thursday. Charming, isn’t it?
Now, I know how it goes. We overbook ourselves with tons of extracurriculars; we lock ourselves away for days studying only to emerge grumpy, wearing sweats and a pair of Uggs; that the small amount of truly free time we have, we want to spend sleeping. Then the semester ends, and we come back a few weeks or months later only to fall into the same pattern. We do all of this because we want to put ourselves in the best position possible after graduation, and that’s smart!
Here’s where that little game plan falls apart, though. In the grind of it all, we’re losing our ability to connect as human beings on a fundamental level. We’re sacrificing the pure, unadulterated fun, the kind of fun Cory and the gang had on Boy Meets World, which, clichéd as it might be, was exactly the kind of fun our younger selves hoped to have when we’d finally be old enough to go to Pennbrook with Feeny. It may not be gone yet, but we’re becoming exceedingly efficient at pushing it away.
How do we stop? How do we start undoing some of this emotional and physical damage? Unplug. Put the phone on silent, close the laptop, step away from the books and the organizations, (already I can hear you grumbling…just stay with me), and let loose…responsibly. You have to be able to decompress, to make time truly for yourself to go out with friends, to go on a date, to allow yourself to forge new connections with people, connections whose mettle is strong enough to weather the crucible that is college, and last.
Trust me…trust me: no matter how spectacular your résumé, no matter how thorough your understanding of thermodynamics, you won’t be hired if you can’t connect with another human being. You won’t impress potential bosses or get the big promotion knowing the ins and outs of the derivatives example on page 349, or by having spent over 10,000 hours with Associated Students campaigning for a slate if that’s all you know how to do. You just can’t be all business all the time. Being sociable and fun, and being able to make a lasting, multi-faceted connection with others are skills with real-world applications, but seem to be getting buried under our mountains of overpriced textbooks and various self-imposed obligations.
Now, don’t think I’m sitting here advocating you drop all notions of responsibility and start cruising campus barefoot and unshaven, shaking every second person’s hand. Leave that to the one guy who’s already made that his MO. He does it better than you, and there’s no need to compete, okay? No, all I’m doing is telling you to prove Twenge wrong, to find a balance between the lonely, depressed Stepford automaton and, well, that one guy.
Look, life is like the paint job of a car. Studying hard, getting involved, working feverishly towards a goal, that’s all good, it’s all necessary and important to keep your life in tip-top shape, to keep it from rusting over and decaying…it’s like wax. But, too much wax build-up isn’t good either. You don’t just throw a layer of wax on and let it sit there! That in and of itself can also ruin the finish and the paint. Aside from that, a car that’s got gobs and gobs of wax shellacked on, collecting dead bugs and various items of debris is probably one of the unsexiest things imaginable.
No, what you do is, you put the wax on (you put forth your best and most concerted effort into school and extracurriculars), but you follow it up by removing the excess (letting your hair down, meeting others, and re-learning how to de-stress), in other words, by waxing off. Then, only then is the car really ready to go, (you are balanced and centered, equipped with the social skill and relationships intrinsically vital to our health and prosperity), and in fighting form. That’s the importance of the art of waxing off.
See, I told you it was all connected. And, it’s a lot deeper than the creative method for hair-removal you thought I was going to talk about, too, isn’t it?
Carl is a senior majoring in International Business, specializing in Finance, with his linguistic emphasis in French and a regional emphasis in Western Europe; and minoring in International Economics at San Diego State University. His thoughts are to enter the field of Mergers and Acquisitions, working on the corporate side of companies like Condé-Nast. Carl’s real dream, however, rests in the world of film acting or directing, an aspiration that carried him through over 25 productions throughout high school, and beyond. Having grown up in Canada, Carl loves watching and playing hockey, and various winter sports, however he also enjoys the beaches and sunshine of San Diego. Currently the President of his NSCS Chapter two years running, Carl values the incomparable experiences he has garnered through this role and NSCS in general, and is grateful for the opportunity to serve on this year’s NLC.