Intersection? Themeception? Call it what you like. Today I expose the ulterior motive of my final run on Labyrinth, our focus on stress management and student involvement is one of the same. Let me put it simply. Getting involved will help relieve your stress. Not, “Will possibly help,” but “Will definitely help.” Today I’m going to convince you of the truth of this statement.

Permit me to read your thoughts for a moment. You’re taking anywhere from four to six classes, with a mountain of finals and assignments that occupy much of your out of class time and all of your brain’s spare moments. You’re swimming in Latin and Greek grammar, barely afloat in history, and drowning in Greek literature. The only weeks without something new coming due are the ones where you have midterms. Why would you want to take on an extra commitment like volunteering, tutoring, helping out with clubs, or running a student society? That’s three hours of your precious time that you won’t be able to spend working and dreading finals. What on earth could convince you to do that?

50 Cent
True fact: volunteering is stone cold gangsta.

Sure it’s good for your CV, and looks great on grad school applications. It  can also help you meet people who might give you jobs later, and there’s all kinds of advantages. But let’s leave all that behind for a moment. After all, using those activities to game the system doesn’t relieve stress, it creates stress, because now you’re worrying about whether or not you’re playing the game well enough. That’s no good. The reason you should do it, the reason you should keep in the forefront of your mind whether you’re volunteering with the homeless or working with CMS, is this:

You are making people’s lives more awesome.

That is what volunteering does. That is the purpose of getting together and organizing pub nights, birthday parties, movie nights, and ROM trips. That’s why people get involved in clubs in the first place. You are helping people. My volunteers for Headshots from the Heart (blatant plug) aren’t just carrying things, tidying up, and talking on camera. They’re helping children heal. They’re helping parents cope with a kid in the hospital. When you organize an event for students, you’re helping to make their lives and their experience in university cooler.It may seem like a small difference, but like anything else, the more you do, the better you get at it. And years from now, when you look back at university, you’ll have forgotten a lot of the assignments, and the details of the classes. You’ll hopefully retain the things you learned there too, but you’ll definitely remember the things outside of class.The people you met, the weird things you ate, the new things you tried, that’s going to stick with you.

How does this help you relieve stress? Consider this: even if your average is crumbling around you and your assignments are threatening to destroy you, you at least did some good. You helped some people out and made their lives better. Your time here was not wasted, not by a long shot. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to keep your grades up or to stay in honours, it affords you a time in your week, just a few hours, when you have to take a break and do something else. Where worrying about your assignments doesn’t help, and you can take your mind off of it without feeling like you’re procrastinating, because you’re not. You’re doing good. Even if you’re sailing through your courses, and occasionally working to push your grades up from an 85 to a 90, then you can afford the time to do something for someone else, and it’ll take away from a bit of that time you were spending playing videogames or watching Star Trek (I assume all students do what I do in their spare time).

Let me read your mind again for a moment. There are lots of volunteering experiences where you don’t feel like you’re helping people. Where you’re just a warm body to haul tables and chairs, an easily forgotten face in the crowd, or the organizer who’s always shouted down in the meetings. You get into these things, and you don’t want to move on because you feel bad. the organization does need help, the people do need help, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for you. I only have one piece of advice. Walk away. Find something else. Organizing, volunteering, any kind of work like that, it has to be meaningful to you. A friend of mine said it best yesterday, “Find the thing that makes you talk faster.” Do the things you’re excited about, or get involved with the groups who address your concerns. Make sure that the work you do for them is making people’s lives more awesome. Communicate that to the people you work with, and you’ll find that your excitement is infectious. So get involved, and you’ll be happier.

Jim Tigwell‘s passion is giving gamers the opportunity to help children heal. Come and volunteer for Headshots from the Heart (May 18th) by clicking here, or ask him about it on Twitter.

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