Stop thinking, start doing
OLIVIA FAYE wants us all to stop over-thinking everything, and just get on with it
The moment came when I realised that I was over-analysing my decision to write a Tab article. The fear of judgement – the fear of being deemed too insignificant for judgement – the abusive comments, no comments – the worry of being too pointed, or of not being focused enough – or being irrelevant, or too relevant. Suddenly I was in that paralysed head space where the actual writing became an abstract notion, and instead I was focused on the principles behind the writing, the critique of the content before it had even materialised, the analysis of the result before it had even begun.
I had turned into exactly that kind of person that I have been rebelling against instinctively since I arrived here, that I find so frustrating in others, and yet by my very nature of being here, in Cambridge, studying my degree, I had silently adopted; overanalysing my mind.
The reason we are here, that we are held (rightly or wrongly) to be the brightest minds in this country, and indeed across the globe, is because we do use our minds to analyse. We are taught across every tripos to question the question, not simply answer it. We can no longer trot out Spark-note memorised answers, dump pre-formed essays under ill-fitting questions, or copy a diagram out of a textbook without explaining it, and still expect to gain the top marks.
Our brains and our minds, which are all too often held to be the same thing, are constantly made to analyse, scrutinise, and evaluate every minute detail of our degrees, our courses and – invariably – our lives.
This process of growth, so vital for life and for Cambridge, and so exciting, is also the bane of Cambridge existence. Because it is this searching, reaching, questioning part of our selves that keeps us captured in ivory towers, barred off from decisive action and, consequently, often extremely depressed.
The thing is, the more we think and probe and search, the less we do. It’s so easy to sit in oak-panelled Cambridge rooms, drinking wine and talking – talking about things that are important and interesting in their own right – without ever actually doing anything The more we question our own actions and analyse our responses, the more paralysed we become. And although the old adage of thinking before we speak is passed down from generation to generation for a reason, when thinking freezes speech, stops action, and negates spontaneity, then we’ve reached an impasse.
Because we’re young, we’re free, we’re living the only time of our lives where we can just do things, and instead, so many of us are paranoid, crippled by anxiety, overthinking every decision we make in our lives. This is the time to make mistakes, to mess things up. We can’t reason or ponder our way through every situation we come to – and this spreading habit of trying to is hampering our lives and inevitably frustrating them.
Depression and anxiety is on the rise in the university, and part of the reason for this is the intense and stressful situations we find ourselves in. But added on to this is the huge amount of stress we put on ourselves by critically analysing our own lives in the same way we do our degrees, our essays, and our academic work.
But people aren’t like journals, or articles, or case studies; we don’t read like poems, or books, or sources; we aren’t carefully constructed works or art or science, rationally thought through and logically laid out. We are continually changing, emotionally charged, free bodies of stuff, of thoughts and of feelings and of life. We cannot reasonably analyse ourselves and come to any satisfactory conclusion in the way that we can our work, without just doing and trying and getting it wrong, or realising we can, actually, sometimes get it right.
Whether you think you’re gay but you’re not sure, you think you might be starting to fall in love but you’re a bit scared, you feel too worthless to try the sport or club or instrument and are overthinking the consequences of it going wrong so much that you are too frightened to try it, there has to come a point in our lives where we stop thinking, stop analysing, and just be. Because we cannot love ourselves, and let alone anybody else, until we draw a line under our analysis and finally just allow ourselves to live.