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COLUMN: Finding The Right Balance

Heights Columnist

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 00:01

Classes are in full swing with another semester’s worth of readings, exams, and papers. Clubs have started to pick up again, with the Spring Involvement Fair reminding you of all the opportunities you should be taking advantage of, making you question how you’re spending your time at Boston College. A pesky thing called student debt is perpetually weighing on your mind. There are relationships here to cultivate and solidify, and relationships at home to maintain. Everyone is asking what your plans are for the summer, and if you don’t already have some fancy internship in Boston, New York, or D.C. lined up, you’d better figure something out, and fast. Not to mention this polar vortex hitting the nation that is unquestionably related to the frighteningly increasing rate of global warming, and the wars in Syria and other parts of the world claiming thousands of lives every day. Plus, the lions are dying. (Really—they’re almost extinct in Western Africa). What’s a person to do?
There’s a well-known joke for college students that says that out of the choices of sleep, grades, and a social life, you can pick two. It’s funny and relatively accurate, but we have so much more going on than just those three categories. And I don’t mean to sound all “woe is me” (or rather, “woe is us”), because obviously we are some of the most privileged individuals out there to be able to attend an elite four-year university like BC. Our struggles don’t even begin to compare to the more global issues other populaces face, some of which I mentioned. But that’s part of what I’m trying to say. How can we begin to confront the “big” issues in the world when we can’t even confront the pressures of our own life on the Heights?
With the advent of 2014, one of my resolutions was to take things one at a time. I’m a stresser, and I seem to be always worrying about so many things at once—even those I have no control over. But this year will be different, I told myself—I’m going to relax and just see where the year takes me. Such is the idealism of winter break. Then comes the return to school and the return to reality (albeit BC bubble reality). All of a sudden, within a week, I’m feeling more overwhelmed by all that’s before me than I remember ever feeling before. The pressure to succeed, coupled with the pressure to impress while still enjoying college life is overwhelming at best and nauseating at worst. I can find no possible way to focus on one class when there are four others waiting to consume my time, or to focus on one relationship when there are 12 others I want to develop. And there are still the dying lions to think about. So that resolution went out the window rather quickly.

Another goal for 2014 was to take advantage of more opportunities, the old “just say ‘yes’” mantra. Keeping busy actually tends to help focus and productivity, and it doesn’t sound too difficult at the outset—just say “yes.” So you do. You say “yes” to this class, and that club, and this intramural team, and that internship fair, and very quickly these formerly welcomed opportunities become the source of the stress, and the heart of the problem. Taking on too much when the norm is already too much is a recipe for destruction—or at the very least, for unnecessary stress and unhappiness. Wanting to do everything is a classic weakness of high achievers, and BC is full of high achievers. It seems that everywhere you look on campus there are people who are achieving “better” than you. The president of this club was also an OL last summer and is an Appalachia trip leader and is in 4Boston and is a spin instructor and is overloading on classes and has time to go out on weeknights—the list goes on. But this illusion of the perfectly chaotic life is just that—an illusion. Sure, many people like keeping busy and are involved in a lot of activities, but there is a limit to how much one person can take on. When you overextend yourself, you run the risk of losing not only sleep but also the cliched but truly necessary “me” time or, if we’re being dramatic, your sanity.

So what is the solution, the best way to deal with all that we have going on? Drop some commitments? It might help, but you risk regret and feeling unfulfilled. Plus, some commitments you can’t avoid, like the need to solidify summer jobs or internships. Ignore everything and take a nap? Gratifying, but probably not wise. Ignore all but the most essential task at hand? Efficient, but it still leaves the other commitments waiting on the sidelines for the perfect moment to overwhelm the mind.

I don’t have the answer—I’m still trying to figure it out myself and likely will be for a while. I don’t know how to achieve everything I want to without sacrificing too much of who I am and what I can handle, and beyond that I don’t know how to fulfill my duties at BC without feeling guilty for not having the time or wherewithal to help with global causes I care about. What I do know is that I want to create a life for myself in which I don’t have to choose between grades, sleep, a social life, saving the lions, or any other goal.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights

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