Amidst a dull online set-up, organization life seemed to be the only glimmer of hope I had to go through my idealized college experience.
Upperclassmen told me time and again that college life wasn’t all that bad, referring me to school organizations and introducing me to a concept that was popularly known as the ‘BS Org’ lifestyle.
To give you some context, being ‘BS Org’ essentially means living and breathing organization life. ‘BS Org’ means you spend most of your time doing organization work to the point that it even surpasses the time you dedicate for your degree. Being ‘BS Org’ ranges from organizing several events and hosting many initiatives, to running for a position in the central board or becoming a project head.
In my freshman year, I had schoolmates going into tens of organizations, and so I thought that aspiring to do the same would make me happier in university. The hype surrounding recruitment week got to me, with my university boasting over 50 accredited organizations and 30 more interest-based ones.
All the colorful online posters and encouragement from fellow students prompted me to apply for several orgs. I had upperclassmen who advised me to join a lot and feel things out by being active in each then pruning out the ones I did not like later on.
With that, I signed up for five organizations thinking I would love the experience. I assumed I would make several friends, look forward to all events that I organized, and be a leader that my fellow orgmates could look up to.
But none of those things really happened. At most, my social battery was so low I could only make two or so friends per organization. I took on officer positions in each org to give myself a semblance of being ‘active,’ when in reality, I was trying to gaslight myself into believing that I wasn’t burnt out. When people said they looked up to me, I only felt guilty because I treated organization work like additional chores on top of my academics.
During the pandemic, I had to make so many materials but barely got any credit for them. I spent my Christmas break worrying and preparing for upcoming projects while other students just ghosted me and remained unresponsive. My remote meetings no longer followed work hours and typically extended past their scheduled times.
By sophomore year, I already dropped four out of my five organizations. Perhaps part of my burnout can be attributed to the online set-up—the lack of real, physical interactions made organization meetings feel longer than actual remote classes. Maybe the oversaturation of Zoom, Canvas, and Canva in my daily routine played a part in dimming my view on BS Org life.
At first, I attributed my negative perception to the online set-up. I was sure I would love org life in the face-to-face setup—but I was wrong. In fact, the amount of work and meetings were ramped up in the transition to the new set-up, worsening the burnout culture. Orgs wanted to cement their position as the best, so they rapidly began driving their members to step up with initiatives to compete against others in recruitment.
Systems of accountability were less organized because the org executives’ priority was to do ‘anything and everything for the org.’ Despite this mentality, events were simply done out of obligation and to surpass the previous years’ performance. The promised sense of camaraderie and welcoming were not really present.
Don’t get me wrong, college organizations themselves are not bad. They grant you the necessary opportunities to get your first internship and start gaining leadership experience. Joining an organization that aligns with your hobbies allows you to bond with like-minded people and enjoy college life.
The main problem lies in the lifestyle of a BS Org student and the expectations that come with those impossible standards. The need to give everything and anything for the sake of unpaid school organizations, all while balancing your academics and personal life, is dangerous at worst and unrealistic at best.
When you are labeled ‘BS Org,’ it implies you are willing to take on any tasks at any time. It becomes a norm to sacrifice your personal time to attend meetings at an ungodly hour and churn out publication material within unreasonable deadlines. Once you become BS Org, you get more work than you signed up for and reap no reward. You cannot complain about the load because you are the maasahan person, and your fellow BS Org higher-ups who are used to it will tell you that it’s an essential part of the process.
BS Org culture makes you believe that work-life balance is possible, but really, it turns you into one of its workers with minimal benefits. It becomes an excuse to force yourself to swallow burnout with a smile. The normalization of burnout that BS Org culture has created should not be dismissed as a necessary part of organization life.
Today, I am part of a school organization that always checks in with its members regarding workload and provides adequate time to do everything. I have a good group of friends here, and I find fulfillment in the work I do because this organization has veered away from toxic BS Org narratives.
Still, many other organizations continue to fall victim to this rhetoric. That said, my advice is not to completely rid yourself of orgs; on the contrary, I think you can select a few to be active in. It is fine to join several organizations in the name of exploration; just do not allow yourself to be consumed by the idea that the BS Org life is everything. You can be a member who attends a few events and still love the org’s advocacy. You can organize only one project and still be a core team member integral to the org’s success.
When you think more about which organizations you devote your time and effort to, you realize that organization life is actually what it was made out to be. You will begin to appreciate the org’s advocacy and genuinely want to volunteer for work. You will be given opportunities to hone your skills and cultivate more. Your peers will respect your personal space and work hours without question.
You will not be afraid to ask for help because your org mentors constantly show up for you. You will find your circle of org friends and enjoy their presence. You may not be in an executive position all the time, but you are happy, and that’s what matters.
Your worth is not just limited to your ability to be ‘BS Org,’ so just let yourself enjoy organization life for what it is.