I will not get behind, I told myself. I’ll stay on top of things this time, I said. I’ll be one step ahead.
I also tell myself every pay-day that I’ll be financially responsible.
As week three of the fall semester begins to wane, the student body over here in Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania begins to feel the pressure of a new academic year. College life stress already pumps full force through our veins, exciting every nerve, overloading our brains with conflicting signals. The confidence we built up in our summer’s-end pep-talks have been blown away by gale force winds. The semester has barely begun, but the bitch came in like a hurricane. Hope you brought your life jackets, little freshmen.
“Don’t spread yourself thin”, my grandmother used to tell me. I never took her advice. After promising myself I would stay on top of life this semester and not get myself so stressed out, here I find myself as the president and founder of a new on-campus writer’s group, participating -once again- in the fall musical, working a part-time job, and taking the maximum amount of credits allowed per semester. If this doesn’t sound like a lot to you, consider just the small fact that professors suggest 2-3 hours of work outside of their class per day. 6 classes. 6×2=…. Now add to that the time demanded by everything else I’ve heaped on to the plate and tell me how there are even enough hours in the day. My schedule defies the laws of time.
This is the curse of Fall semester. The hype of returning convinces you that you’re ready, but really there’s no preparing for the transition from summer to full blown academic mountain climbing. It’s like jumping out of a hot tub into a bucket of ice and telling yourself you’re immune to shock. The key isn’t to avoid stress. That’s impossible. The key is to keep breathing.
I hate budgeting time. I’m too spontaneous for that. But it’s a skill worth learning. What really matters, though, is not losing yourself in the sea of papers to write, chapters to read, and research proposals to prepare. If you have to be laboring out in the hot sun all day, you wouldn’t forget to take a break every now and then to refresh yourself with a cold drink of water and enjoy the beautiful landscape. The same goes with work. Take some time to play.
Budget in a half hour to nap and recharge your batteries. Budget your time not just to get things turned in by their due date, but to have some semblance of a social life. Work in the company of your friends. Order pizza. When you have that mental breakdown over the 200 point test coming up even though school’s only been in session for three weeks, cry with your friends. It makes things a hell of a lot easier. Get away from campus one day a week. Get ice cream. Get away from it all for an hour or two.
Do whatever you need to do to stay semi-sane. Give your all in your work. It affects the rest of your life. But don’t forget to live. You only get to do this once. Make it memorable while you can. Remember to breathe. You can do this.
Keep moving forward.