College is all about exploring and taking advantage of the wealth of opportunities in front of you. But for indecisive people (like me), it translates into taking on too much, too often.
I was warned about this, as I'm sure you have seen in maybe older siblings and friends: college kids double major and triple minor and lead 10 different organizations and have a job and have an internship and go to parties every weekend and work out every day and write a senior thesis. This image of a college student still doesn't change when you become one, even when you realize the reality of the situation is impossible. I still somehow believe that all of that is doable, even though I know it's not. Advisors will say you're doing too much, friends will say you're crazy, and parents will say they're concerned. But a part of you still thinks, "I can do this. I just have to try harder."
There's a fine line between challenging and struggling. I'm all about getting out of your comfort-zone; sometimes you need to do that extra "oompf" to grow as an individual. However, I also easily fall prey to the dreaded plummet when your body and mind can't handle everything you set out to do. Every semester I've put myself up for a new challenge. It might be taking more classes, trying out a new extra-curricular, applying to transfer, balancing a new job, working in a lab, taking classes outside my major, even studying abroad. I'd advise, however, that you stick to 1-2 challenges at most, because going over that will turn all your challenges into struggles. Once you fall over to that side of the fine line, it gets really hard to stay standing.
I have made this mistake too many times to keep making this mistake. It's hard to balance that line, especially when it seems like everyone around is walking that tightrope perfectly. The Atlantic recently published an interesting article about the status of busyness. Americans tend to think that being busy means you're important, successful, and arguably of a higher status. However, this mentality is not translatable across seas; in Italy, people tend to think that the less busy you are, the more successful you must be. The logic is that if you're not busy, that must mean you are wealthy enough to have time to relax. If you really think about it, doesn't that make more sense? If we're not working extremely hard to be able to enjoy luxury and relaxation, are we just working hard just so we can keep working hard? Of course, that's different if you love what you do. It's ingrained in us, culturally, and we do tend to feel of a "lower status" if we're not working hard and keeping busy. It's up to you decide your opinion on this, but it helps in understanding why we're wired this way, why I keep making the same mistake of being too busy and burning out. As the article suggests toward the end, the balance of this lifestyle is something we have to strive for, and something I think I'm finally starting to maybe understand in my 6th semester of college after returning from a country that masters work-life balance.
So to all my fellow overachievers, to all the people raised Type-A and discovering the Type-B world, whether you are in high school putting together the best college application, transfer applicant overthinking your choices, or even just a random person who somehow ended up reading this blog post: take a chill pill. Work hard, but don't ruin your life trying. A number is just a number, a title is just a title, a name is just a name.
March can be a tough month for a lot of people. Applications are going out, decisions are coming in, midterms are creeping up, and assignments are piling on. I needed to write this as much as you may have needed to read it. Spring is coming soon, and hopefully a well-deserved break. We'll get through this.