Time spent on the arts is not wasted
Some hobbies are more productive than others. This may seem obvious, but for years I thought relaxation was synonymous with the feeling of rotting. Believe it or not, time does not have to be clearly divided between working and existing in a comatose state. There is an inherit value in time spent creating, not for the sake of productivity or result, but for the sake of creation.
One of many resolutions I chose for this year was to create something every day. This resolution quickly changed to the slightly lower standard of creating something every week, but its value still holds. We are part of a utilitarian culture; anything not considered work is inherently seen as a waste of time. As a society, and quite notably as a school, we dismiss time invested in the arts as nonproductive. Consumption of the arts (also known as Netflix binges) scrapes by as a form of relaxation, but creation is almost completely ignored. Still, creativity, mental health, and community are all considered important values. How can creativity be expected among students whose only exercise of it lies in academic problem-solving and gaming strategy?
There is a very special irony in a student body that complains on Reddit about crumbling social culture, yet leaves events unattended and theaters empty. We, as a school, have neglected both creators and creative pursuits. This is one of many criticisms I have of RPI: not simply an ignorance of the arts, but a culture that expects the results of creative hobbies while simultaneously dismissing them as a waste of time.
This is not meant to be a call-out, just another complaint against the antisocial and workaholic nature of this school thrown into the void. Speaking from experience—from one antisocial and workaholic student to another—for your academic performance, mental health, and social well-being, take some time for the arts. See a play, attend an Experimental Media Performing Arts Center performance, follow one of the hundreds of posters around campus to an event (who knows, there might even be free food!) or simply look around at the student art decorating the walls of Sage and West halls. Create, too. Play music, volunteer for an event, join a performance, draw in the margins of your class assignments, write a short story in the notes app of your phone at 3 am when your roommate snores too loud for you to sleep. It doesn’t take much to squeeze a few minutes of the arts into your day. Create, for yourself; appreciate, for other creators; and please, let the arts thrive.