Balancing Act: Learning to Find Rest in the Midst of a Hectic Semester
In one day, I had successfully managed to put on mismatching socks, walk into the wrong building for a class, and completely forget about the pot of coffee I had made, which was obviously needed. “Shambles, my life is in shambles!” I thought to myself. Junior year has been one big sucker punch I did not quite see coming. After surviving (or should I say civiving) my civ classes sophomore year, I figured my work load would decrease a little bit, or at least not increase. However, I have found myself constantly working on papers or preparing for exams. Let’s just say the library and I have become best friends this semester, you know what I mean? It’s seen me at my best and at my worst, yet it’s always still there for me, even when I’m banging my head on the table in frustration. Anyways, the point is that my schedule has pretty much looked like this seven days a week: wake up, go to classes, do homework, take a coffee break, do more homework, and find a few spots in there to stuff some food in my face. However, throughout the last few weeks, I have realized that this rigorous type of schedule is not healthy, nor is it what the full college experience is all about.
Last week, while working on a paper in my room, I heard a knock on my door. It was my roommates, who proceeded to say, “Austin, we need to talk.” I slowly came out into the living room, fearing I had done something terribly wrong like leaving the milk out and was about to get voted off the island (A.K.A. kicked out of the apartment). My confused self just stood there and said, “Well, what’s up?” They looked at me and replied, “Dude, you’ve been locked in your room for three days doing homework. We haven’t even seen you, and it’s not okay.” You know what? They were right. It wasn’t okay.
College is an extremely important time in your life. You get to explore different areas of study and decide what direction you want your career to go in. You get to build up a resume and develop connections that could refer you to a future employer. However, while this is all extremely important, there is another side to the college experience: the side where you get to build friendships that will last a lifetime; the side where you get to explore the local surroundings and culture that is all around you on the weekends; the side where you get to just relax and enjoy different events and activities that happen around campus. I could go on and on. In my work-driven stupor, I was forfeiting these experiences. I was forfeiting relationships. I was missing out on so much! Yes, schoolwork and grades are a huge priority in college. Yes, the main reason for going to college is to prepare you for your career. But I’m not developing myself into the most well-rounded person I can be if I only focus on that without taking some time to experience other areas of college.
You see, my biggest problem is that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to school and grades. From junior high into early high school, I hated school, yet could not bear to get bad grades. Now, I really do enjoy school, but that fear of getting a low grade is still clearly evident. It’s even reached an extreme where sometimes I can’t even stand the thought of getting a “B,” which is still a good grade! (I know you just rolled your eyes and judged me after that statement, don’t deny it.) This stress has caused me to spend an overabundance of time on homework, which often means giving up hours of sleep every night. I’ve seen that this is not healthy at all! Some days I walk around campus in a zombie-like state, in my sweatpants and bed-head hair, half awake and unable to focus. This makes it hard to pay attention in class sometimes, which alarms me even further and makes the cycle of studying later even worse. I was constantly tired on a daily basis. We’d be in my ethics class discussing human depravity, and all I could do was sit there thinking about my sleep depravity! Through my friends, the Lord has really convicted me about this way of life. What I’ve been learning recently is that while God calls us to devote ourselves to things such as school for His glory, that does not mean we have to be perfect. In fact, there is a beauty in not being perfect. Perfection is an unobtainable goal, so if that’s what I expect of myself, I will fall short every time. It will only drain me emotionally and physically. Besides, grades do not define me as a person. God is not going to use me any more or less because of my GPA. So I don’t have to stress over grades. I can enjoy these years I have in school!
“La vie équilibrée.” This is French for “the balanced life.” I’m in French this semester, and one thing we’ve talked about is how the French people look for a balance in life between work and relaxation. They work around 35 hours per week, have long lunch breaks to spend time with others, and have more vacation time than the normal American. I think there are some valuable things us college students can learn from the French people. There must be a balance in our lives. Devoting an obsessive amount of time to homework and studies can be unhealthy. Similarly, neglecting studies and spending too much time with fun activities is also not good. Studies, relationships, and relaxation are some of the most important aspects of college, and with careful planning, these will lead to “La vie équilibrée.”
I write all this to say that time management is an important thing to keep in mind while in school. This last week, I’ve made a point to not spend too much time writing papers, but finding little pockets of time every now and then to do something fun with friends. For example, this past weekend, I invited a bunch of friends over to my apartment to have waffles. I like making waffles from scratch because cooking helps me de-stress, and I love food, especially waffles. If I hadn’t taken the time to do that, I would have missed out on great company and conversations with friends. How waffle would that have been?! Get it? It’s funny because… oh, sorry… nevermind. Anyways, on Saturday, I worked on homework for a majority of the day, but took time off in the evening to go to “Open Mic Night,” which was an on-campus event. I got to relax, listen to music with friends, and drink coffee. What could be better? Finally, to cap off a great weekend, I took a little trip with some friends to Tulsa for a Ben Rector concert on Sunday. I included a picture below, because I love Ben and it was fantastic!
It’s not always easy to balance your college schedule correctly. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. However, when your schedule allows, spend time with friends and take time to rest. I’ve already had a few late nights this week, but I’ve made sure to squeeze in a nap and eat dinner with my roommates. This weekend, between homework sessions, I plan on playing some tennis with friends and drinking lots of egg nog (can I get an amen?). I’m excited about it all, and the rest of this semester doesn’t look so gloomy. I have just over three semesters left to go, and I intend to take full advantage of it by devoting myself wholeheartedly to my studies, but at the same time finding time for rest, recreation, and relationships. My balance in school life is steadily improving, now here’s to hoping the balance in my bank account does the same…