I am now two weeks into my second year of college and I’m beginning to remember what it was like to be constantly going— these are busy lives we live. Between early and late classes every day, studying when I can, working when I should, and making time for the people that matter to me, there’s a lot to do these days. In some ways, I would rather be busy; it forces me to be productive with the time that I have.
But there are downsides to always planning productivity in free time.
Does anyone else get tired of doing the same routines every day? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that I know when I can expect to be busy or not, but it gets a little boring after a while. We’re only two weeks into classes, so of course I’m still figuring things out here like everyone else, yet I know I’m going to get to that point of boredom and monotony soon enough. With the first day of fall finally here and classes back in full swing, it’s time to really look at what kind of year I want this to be.
Because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but undergrad is only 4(-5) years of our lives. I’m already down to 3 left. I’ve got to make every little bit count.
Last year I came into college with this idea that even though the next four years of my life were supposed to encompass a social life, responsibility, growing up, and living a good life, I felt like my primary necessity was academics. So when I came to Cal Poly, I did more than prioritize my schoolwork— it’s almost all I did. Sure, I had my fair share of late nights spent doing absolutely nothing productive or random movie nights to watch The Grudge or Insidious. But there were too many nights I said “no, I’ve got to study” or multitasked instead, even when I didn’t need to. Looking back, it may have been excessive.
If you ask anyone I lived with last year about me, they would probably say that I was put together, organized, and oh so focused. I actually heard that comment from people a lot, especially when friends were coming back from parties at 1Am and they walked into the common room to see me working on a chemistry lab. The thing is, I don’t think those are the right words to use for what I was like last year— not quite. So I want to set the record straight about freshman me, the correct term for what I was: I was not put together, organized, or truly focused when I needed to be… I was stressed out, constantly. So I worked to try to balance it out.
Staying up late to study or finishing things early, that wasn’t me trying to be the best student I could, that was me trying to do everything I could to keep the deadlines and the anxiety from catching up with me.
It was me trying to make up for flaws in myself that weren’t actually there.
But did the studying and the working ahead help at all? For short term passing classes, I guess it did, at least according to my okay grades. In the long run though, I look back and see all the missed opportunities to get out of my own head for a little while and out into the real world. Instead of pacing myself, I was always going at full speed and in the process, I didn’t take the time to figure out more than just my own academic habits.
So this year I am making one big change: I’m going to go out and live a life worth living. Not just one of academics and late nights spent with a calculator, but also of quiet nights with my best friends, and weekends of beach hopping for bonfires, and gym time that doesn’t feel too scheduled or forced, and doing at least one thing I love every day. Even for just five minutes.
Because this is important.
For my sophomore year, I am going to live my life in a way that feels not like an obligation, but an opportunity. Maybe that’s the opportunity to join some new clubs and actually go to all the meetings this year, or maybe it’s making more and more friends all across campus until I can walk into any room and recognize at least one face. At some point, I think we all develop our own conclusions about what this life holds for us, and right now, I’m changing mine. I used to believe that my schoolwork was everything, between track or soccer or school clubs; my schoolwork always came first no matter what.
Yet now, I see that it’s more complicated than that. A lot more complicated.
Because schoolwork is still a priority, absolutely, but now, so am I. I have to pay attention to how I’m doing, how empty or full my life feels, and what I can do to change that. There are things we cannot learn in a classroom or simply by reading a book. And there are things we need that we cannot get out of a purely academic setting, like love, or friendship, or experience, or motivation. Many of these things might start off in a classroom, but to live a fulfilled life, we’ve got to go further than that.
Take it from Hercules, we have to go the distance to experience this life for ourselves and push the limits of what we can do. That means getting up early some days just to see the sunrise, or going out with a few new faces simply because you have no good reason not to. Whether we hit a few roadblocks along the way, run after a few busses here and there, or ]fall down a couple times, that’s all a part of it too. This is about living these lives that we hold, and for me, living out these last three college years with all that I’ve got.
I’ll leave off with Langston Hughes, in a short poem of what this is all about, and I’ll see you all next week.