The emails began pouring in: student government, service opportunities, the school newspaper, work study, men’s rowing, geology club. The million and a half student organizations I signed up for at the involvement fair were sending out their very best GIF-laden emails to draw in as many talented and fresh-faced freshmen as they could to join them in guiding the student body, serving the community and doing…whatever the geology club does.
Every unopened email represented a new door, a new experience, a new opportunity and a new chance to meet new people. At orientation, that stretch of three days where one’s skull is pried open and “GET INVOLVED” is stamped on every available centimeter of pliable freshman brain matter, my orientation leader stressed the importance of being a part of something, of taking advantage of what college has to offer and of squeezing every little modicum of meaning out of these oh-so-precious four years of college.
So I figured I’d go to a few open meetings and fill out a few applications. I’d taste this bowl of porridge or that one to see what wasn’t too hot or too cold. It turns out, however, I’m not quite as picky as Goldilocks.
Before I knew it, I was, to name just a few, acting as president of my dorm, playing a high-commitment sport, working with a charity group and writing for the school newspaper, all on top of an on-campus job. I was wrapped up in just about every student organization on campus besides the geology club, who I hope are still happily doing geology things in my absence. Looking back on that semester, I think I took some classes as well.
Unfortunately, my application for a time-turner was denied (I’m reapplying this semester) and, perhaps more unfortunately, I lacked the time-traveling abilities of 1980s Justice League member Booster Gold–I had to do some research for that reference, my expansive nerdiness only extends so far, and Adam Sandler’s Click seemed like a low-hanging fruit.
So I was stuck, along with the rest of us mere mortals, attempting to fit all of those now-opened emails into a regular 24-hour day. I was (and still am) up at the crack of dawn six days a week, attempting to make a $40,000 engineless boat go fast in water, despite my repeated reminders to the coach that much cheaper, properly motorized boats can go significantly faster with considerably less effort.
My daytime hours were filled with class, most of which I had no choice but to attend un-showered after practice and my nights were filled with my on-campus job and running to and from club meetings before doing homework late into the night because, you know, academics. Soon I fell into the age-old college student strategy of drinking lots of coffee and never sleeping.
There were some positives to the lifestyle, however. Sprinting across campus during the 10 minute window I might have between, say, class and work, or between work and a club meeting, led to some relatively toned calves, which are, according to The Simpson’s Millhouse, the “hardest place to add mass.” I also think I kind of rocked Peter Parker dark circles from Spiderman 3 on my eyes. On top of that, I had a lot to talk about when I called home to my grandma.
On the flip side, I was constantly exhausted. I tried to function on the slightly dangerous mixture of roughly four hours of sleep, two or three coffees a day and a 20-minute nap every day for an entire semester. As a result, my academics fell a bit to the wayside. Soon I realized that I had to make a choice; the lifestyle I was living wasn’t sustainable.
I had to decide what was really important to me and instead of half-assing 100 things, to whole-ass just a few. Freshman year was a whirlwind, with seemingly every second of every day requiring me to be somewhere or do something for somebody. I was running head-on into the wind, the kind of wind that suffocates you and doesn’t allow you to breathe.
Eventually, however, I realized it’s OK to turn my head every now and then and slowly take a second for myself to inhale a few deep breaths before continuing to plunge haphazardly into the unknown.