My sophomore year here at Cal Poly officially began yesterday morning and I can already tell that it’s going to be quite an… experience. Quick summary of my two days of class: Ran to catch the bus three times (only for it to be late), started work at the University Store, emailed far too many professors about crashing classes, went from 8 units to 20 in three days, joined a large theatre lecture class made up mostly of freshmen, ran into a wonderful amount of familiar faces, and experienced my first 8-10pm class.
This is going to be a year of firsts and a whole lot of learning.
There’s something surprisingly comforting about not being new to the whole college thing this year— I’m more comfortable than I thought I would be just having been here already, whether I felt like I knew what I was doing or not. I guess there’s something to be said about knowing that there are trials ahead, but at least having an idea of what to expect. That’s the difference between being a freshman and being a sophomore, I actually know how rough this can be.
I also know how fantastic this can be.
As it is with so much in life, the key to getting it all right is balance. I can’t spend all my free time at work because I still need to study. I can’t spend all my free time studying because I have committed to a job. And I also can’t only go to class and do those two things because, well, this is college— a social life is somewhat necessary for both sanity and survival.
So maybe the question is how do any of us find that balance between everything?
First of all, your people are so important. Not only do they keep you in check to say “hey, we haven’t seen you around lately,” reminding you that there are people who want you, but they also to check in on you when you forget to do it yourself. With a world heading towards higher productivity and more time working, we often forget to take breaks for ourselves or step back from things and remember to breathe. Our people are always important to pull us back when we fall off course.
Rule number two: Make a plan. We’re all busy people, I get that, and it can be hard to keep track of everything going on in our lives. So make some plans, get a planner going, and mark down some due dates. The key to this part is organization— the faster you get more organized, the easier it is to figure out all the information and to do lists in your head. At least for me, I know that when I’ve got a lot on my plate, it’s at least nice to see on paper that it’s possible to do it all. A little confidence boost never hurt, even when it just comes from everything fitting in one box on my calendar.
Rule number three: Failure to succeed is not the same as failure. Does that make sense? Let’s put this in lettered terms— there is a large margin between passing a class with an A and failing one with a D. If you’re giving something your best shot, asking for help when you need it, and doing what you can to get to where you want to be, that’s all you can ask of yourself. Your best isn’t always going to get you an A, not when there are so many other things to focus on and remember. Lucky for us, a C is still passing. And sometimes, that’s the best we can do. Find a way to be okay with that, and if you can’t, then find a way to make your best a little bit better.
And finally, rule number four: You come first. If your body is telling you something, if you’re constantly tired or have a hard time getting through the day, something has to change. Burnout is very possible, both in work and in education, and it takes a toll on everything you do from your relationships to your sleeping habits. Even when it seems you can’t slow down or you have no other option but the pace you’re currently going at, there is always another way. It just might not be ideal. Before you even get there, it’s best to avoid burnout altogether by taking the time you need for yourself every day, not skipping meals, and definitely not skipping sleep. But it’s not always easy to stick to that, even with the best intentions. So if you fall a little behind on self-care, take whatever steps you need to in order to get back to good health. For college students, that could even mean a quick trip home or dropping a class— do what you need to do. And don’t forget about your people, the good ones are always there to help you out. All you need to do is ask.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month and in the midst of the natural disasters and recovery efforts we see around the world, I am also reminded that some tragedies are those we don’t see. From the American Psychological Association back in 2013, 41.6% of college students struggled with anxiety, 36.4% with depression, and 35.8% with relationship problems. These three top issues can all lend a hand into impacting the wellbeing of students and if ignored for too long, they could become too large for one person to handle. I say this to point out that these percentages are not small— if you are a part of it, that is okay. You are not alone and you do not have to feel like you are either. Like I said earlier, ask for help and do what you need to do to get yourself to a good place, you deserve that much.
This world is a beautiful place and this life is a beautiful thing, at least I know it can be. So as I go into year two, I am going to do my best to embody the beauty, even amidst the turmoil of getting my life together. And hey, if I’m lucky, maybe running after busses can be a part of it too. Until next week everyone, have a wonderful weekend and here’s to the beauty 🙂