I have a tendency to be a bit of an overachiever sometimes. Throughout high school, I took AP after AP, I was in student leadership, I always had a job and played sports. While this sounds like I was thriving, my grades suffered, and the time I put into these activities was not acceptable. I told myself that when I made it to college, I would not do this. Instead, I would have fun and enjoy the time that I knew would fly by in an instant. Yet every semester, I try to push my limit a bit more: more credits, more activities, more leadership.
This summer I realized that while my resume was blossoming, I was not. I was in a summer class, had two jobs and an amazing internship. Opportunities would come and I told myself that I would be an idiot to pass them up. In reality, I was an idiot for taking every opportunity that came my way.
I hadn’t realized how much I was putting myself through until my family “vacation.” I had Slack open for most of the trip, was checking my emails constantly and whenever I could get away, I found myself at my computer. The vacation was more stress-inducing than it should have been. I was constantly worried about all the meetings I was missing and thought that a week to myself was considered slacking off.
I was burnt out in a way that I have never been before. I was moving so fast and could not stop. I was not sleeping and could not find a minute in the day to unwind.
I am not going to blame everything on the culture, but the culture is partly to blame. We are growing up in a society where LinkedIn rules our lives and the future is the focus.
Our insecurities feed off of comparison: If they can take this many classes and do all these activities, why can’t I? If they can make it through this overscheduling, why can’t I? It feels as though nothing can be done in moderation anymore.
While college used to be seen as a time to find yourself and what you are passionate about, it is now a time spent on building a resume for a job you are not sure is right for you.
People often say that college is the best time of your life, but when we are in college, they are telling us we need to be prepared for what is ahead. We are terrified of leaving college with no experience when what we should be terrified of is making our way through college with a booked schedule and no relationships or memories of our “best years.”
I know it is in our nature to look ahead, but is it selfish to take a pause and enjoy college life?
When COVID-19 first started, this horrible tragedy seemed to be the pause everyone needed. It was a time to take a step back and reflect on what you prioritize in your life. Personally, my life was busier than ever before March 2020. Stepping back from all of my commitments made me realize what I was actually missing and wanted to do. I learned so much about myself and what I was passionate about during this time and began to move in a direction I was really proud of.
Sadly, the prioritization of my activities did not last long, because as soon as things started to open up, I felt this intense pressure to make up for lost time. My perfect, prioritized schedule was gone and my days were full of activities that I felt were necessary for my success post-college. I gained an immense amount of experience that I am so grateful for… but at what cost?
As someone who has been overscheduled and stressed to a point of no return, my advice is to be honest with yourself. You, and only you, know your limits and what you are capable of. Reaching your limits can be a very humbling experience, but be honest with yourself. Make sure you aren’t leaving college with only a resume.
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Payton Toomey (she/her) is a junior majoring in journalism and information sciences and eSociety. She loves to cook and golf in her free time.