Recent Reflections: On Being Less Terrible at Things

Near the end of my sophomore spring, one of my mentors told me that junior year often becomes the most stressful period of undergrad for “people like me”. At the time, that seemed like a ridiculous statement since I had ended up trading my physical and emotional health for a 4.0 and some cool things to put on my resume. Or at least, that’s what it felt like to my slightly more dramatic 20-year-old year old self. Fast forward one year later, and as usual – she was right. My junior fall was relatively low-key as I wanted to have an easier semester after the hell that I put myself through sophomore spring. I spent some time thinking about my next steps, ended up re-applying to the summer research fellowship that I did at Harvard last year, and actually had time to read for pleasure. All in all, Fall 2015 was idyllic and easily my least harrowing college semester.

For whatever reason, I then decided that all of that was too easy and that I was just going to do it all during Spring 2016. And so, I ended up leading two student orgs, serving on multiple advisory committees, becoming an undergraduate teaching fellow, holding down a part-time job, applying to study abroad in Fall 2016, and taking 17 credits. I can’t pretend that I didn’t enjoy these things, but what I find most remarkable about the whole experience was that all of it kind of snuck up on me.

I am terrible at saying no. I could have one million things on my plate already and someone could ask me to make it one million and five and I would agree in a heartbeat. Why? Do I hate myself? Do I like not having any time to breathe? Do I enjoy waking up and knowing that I have 9 events to go to in one day? That actually happened once, and yes I went to all of them. Of course, I don’t like living as if I’m one missed calendar notification away from disaster, and yet on some level, maybe I do? There has to be some reason that I continue to pile on so many responsibilities.

On one hand, I know that I enjoy being busy. I just have not yet learned to identity when I am making the transition from busy to overloaded. One more activity, one more event, one more night to work on a paper, one more meeting with a professor, all of these things don’t seem terrible when looked at in isolation. I mean I have a 7 color system to organize my calendar and I write in my planner in two different languages so that I have to devote my full attention whenever I open it. I enjoy being organized, and yet I still find myself throwing things together at the last minute because I just don’t give myself enough time to decompress. I know that I shouldn’t keep hurdling from one thing to another, but I haven’t quite mastered applying that wisdom to my life yet.

In retrospect, I did actually do better this past semester than previous periods in college. Sure, I all but nixed my social life for a few months, but I ended making time to get back into writing poetry, reading surrealist fiction, and exploring Philadelphia. My health didn’t literally deteriorate over the course of two weeks like it did this time last year. But doing “better” is relative, and compared to complete nonfunctioning, it’s not really something to be overjoyed about. But that’s life, hopefully I’ll get less terrible at taking care of myself as I get older.

PS: My next post will be less rambling probably. I’ll be talking about what I’m doing this summer and future plans. I’m not completely lost anymore, which seems to continue this theme of being less terrible overall. It’s all about progress right?

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