Just a twenty-something living the dream, trying to check off the bucket list, one entry at a time
Tomorrow is the first day of my spring semester of my sophomore year. I’m officially almost half-way finished with college, which is terrifying on it’s own, but this semester is going to present both some unique challenges and opportunities.
For starters, guess where I’m going over spring break? THE CZECH REPUBLIC. Yes, you read that correctly. I am finally going to Europe! (Or at least part of it). My World Media Systems class has an optional 10 day study abroad component, so I have renewed my passport, done my research and I can’t wait.
But, because this is real life, every awesome thing seems to be balanced by some kind of challenge. Here’s the thing, this semester, I’m taking a step back from working at my school’s daily newspaper. That’s right, I’m taking a leave of absence of sorts. And that’s probably the most terrifying thing about this semester.
See, this paper has become a huge part of my life. It’s who I am. It’s become my family, my friends. I mean, when you spend at least 5 hours a day, 6 days a week with the same people, you quickly become really close friends.
That’s the atmosphere of a newsroom. We’re all sleep-deprived, coffee-addicted college journalists who hate math but love pursuing a tough lead, finding the truth, telling stories. It’s what we do and we love it. But, it’s also a huge time commitment, one to which I totally don’t mind giving my time.
But, this semester, I’ve had to make one of the toughest decisions of my college career. I had to decide to take a step back from the place that I love. Because I realized I needed some semblance of balance that I was sorely lacking last semester.
Fall 2013 was one of the most rewarding semesters I’ve had as a journalist. But it came with a price. Every day, I would head down to the newsroom after classes finished around 3:00. I would then be in the newsroom until at least 7:30. More often, I would be walking home at 8 or 9. I would still need to eat dinner and do my homework and study for tests. Hanging out with friends was a much rarer commodity in the fall. My roommate stopped wondering where I was at 10 p.m. and just (correctly) assumed I was at the paper or some paper-related event.
Somehow, I got through most of last semester on four or five hours of sleep every night. I would go to bed at 4 a.m. and be up again for class at 8 or 9 a.m. My life in the fall was the true definition of “burning the candle at both ends.”
Honestly, looking back, I’m not sure how I survived last semester on that schedule. And trust me, it was a rough fight to the finish line during finals week.
So, I had to make a decision. And I decided that I need a break. It was far from an easy decision. Rather, it was one that had me agonizing for days and culminated in me crying in my kitchen for half an hour. If you know me at all, then you realize that tears for me mean some serious crap got real. Up until that point, I firmly believed I would be able to balance the paper and my classes and the rest of my life and be ok. I’ve got a stubborn streak a mile wide and refused to believe I couldn’t do it. I’ve always been the girl who “handles things.” I’m the girl that took three AP classes my senior year of high school, served as varsity tennis captain, band squad leader, SADD president and volunteer. I’m the person who took 17 credits her first semester of college. The idea of “taking it easy” was never really an option in my life. I always thought I’d be able to juggle all the balls in the air. But eventually, something’s got to give. We’re going to drop one of the balls. We’re going to get tired.
But here’s the thing. We can’t do it all. We just can’t. And that’s a tough fact to swallow for most people, especially Americans. We, as a country, take less vacation days and days off than the rest of the world. Our ability and worth is based on how much we achieve.
Last semester, my friends would incredulously ask me when I found time to sleep. And here’s the screwed up part: I took pride in the fact that I was getting half the recommended daily amount of sleep. That’s not something that should be admired. That’s something that requires a swift dose of reality and a nap.
So this semester, I’m trying something new. I’m going to pull back and focus on other areas of my life. I’m going to have adequate time for sleep and studying and seeing my friends and going to the gym. It’s a little unsettling. I’m not used to having time after classes or adequate sleep. But it’s a change that is desperately needed. I guess this is all part of growing up. We need to make the tough decisions and do stuff we don’t want to in order to take care of ourselves.
So here’s to a semester of gaining perspective. Here’s to a semester of adequate sleep. Here’s to a semester of balance and learning how to just let go.