Making time to live
Rediscovering the value of simplicity
In many ways I am a typical University student. I have always overscheduled myself, and just when I think I’ve reached my limit, I add something else to my plate and manage to make it work.
Last semester, though, I believe I finally hit a ceiling. While I managed to get everything done — well, except about half of the reading for my classes — I was certainly much less happy in doing so.
My mind was always on the next thing, and without really taking time to stop and think about it, I let some basic elements of life fly away as I quickly walked from one location to the next. I often dreaded running into anybody I knew because it meant having to put off the next thing on my list for another five minutes. I was basically in a perpetual bad mood, and it was fun for neither myself nor anyone else around me.
This semester, I went against every instinct my over-involved self had and decided to only take 13 credits. Since making that decision, I have had a looming sense of guilt brought on by a lifetime of striving to overachieve. This is not because I am falling behind on the credits I need to graduate or the credits I need for my major — because they are carefully planned out and supported by a hefty group of AP credits — but because I feel as though I could be doing more.
Yet even within the first few days of the semester, I can feel a noticeable difference in my demeanor. With my newly lightened schedule, I have found I once again have time to live normally. I have time to stop and chat with a group of friends I pass, time to eat breakfast, time to walk at a more leisurely pace and time to update the long-neglected calendar on my apartment wall. I even had time to cut up and wash the fruit I bought instead of forgetting about it and discovering it weeks later, growing mold in the refrigerator.
I have spent a good deal more time on my couch, but in doing so, I have also had way more conversations with my roommates than I did last semester.
These are all pretty basic aspects of living that shouldn’t seem like much of a time burden, but it required this mindset shift to allow myself to do them without having to worry about wasting minutes. I am sure as the semester progresses and syllabus week comes to a close, I will once again rush through my day from time to time — but forcing myself to go against my instinct to overcommit has reminded me of one truth not oft mentioned at the University: you cannot put a price on peace of mind.
In future semesters, when I once again pack my schedule full of activities, I hope I never again forget the value of stepping back and taking a breath. Because as important as everything we have going on is, it is a lot less enjoyable if we are too overwhelmed to appreciate it all.
Kelly’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.