To the Girl Who’s Too Structured

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I wake up and get dressed at 7 a.m. Then I eat a well-balanced breakfast packed with grains for energy, fruit for vitamins and protein to keep me full throughout class. Time to pack my lunch, laptop, books, chargers, Under Armour spandex and reusable water bottle that had been chilling in the fridge overnight. All of this before pushing my butt out the door by 8:20.

I walk to my 9 a.m. class, reaching the room 10 minutes early to snag my seat in the second row—just close enough to the front, but not quite too close. I refresh my email, read The Skimm and start neatly filling out my planner for the day.

Not to bore you, but everyday is like this for me. I’ll squeeze a workout, perfectly timed, in between classes, leaving just enough time to eat lunch before class. I never miss my 20-minute protein window immediately after a solid lifting sesh. Then, I head off to more class and a night of homework. If all goes according to schedule, I’ll finish my homework at least the day before the deadline.

So many young adults struggle to stay organized—to learn how to plan ahead, battle procrastination and ultimately be efficient. In reality, this isn’t just a struggle among the young. Structured living is a goal that people of all ages grapple with each day—and night, I suppose.

Yet, the attempt to “adult,” as we call it, is only one side of the efficiency spectrum. The other end can be just as problematic, but it never seems to be acknowledged. I can tell you from experience that too much structure is very much an issue. I deal with it constantly.

Coming from an all girls’ high school, high-achieving individuals constantly surrounded me. Almost every student in that institution was trained to be over-involved and high functioning. A little too high functioning at times. I would say that about 90 percent of those girls continued that approach to life after graduation. I’m undoubtedly one of them.

My tight schedule barely allows time to sit down and check Facebook, let alone hang out in the dining hall with my friends for a few hours. I prioritize my academics, health and fitness, treating socialization as a reward.

I do it with my roommates, staying in my single room at night until I finish my homework. I do it with the friends I run into on campus, promising to text them about a time for us to catch up, rather than stopping to chat right then and there. Even my boyfriend rarely sees me during the day, Monday through Friday.

Now, I may get a lot done, but I often stop to think about whether it’s worth it. Sometimes, when I look at my suffering relationships (and lack thereof) I don’t think so. Other times, when I’m applying to jobs, I wish that I’d done more.

I have these little moments of disillusionment when I look up and decide I need to live in the moment more, relax and let loose. Go grab that pizza I’m craving after class instead of getting ahead on work. I’ll go along with this bit for an hour or so. But I promise you, that night, you’ll find me back in my bedroom, doing early prep for midterms. Are my grades really that much better just because I started making my study guides 10 days in advance? Honestly, I’m not sure. But it makes me feel more satisfied with my day.

Plenty of procrastinators exist out there, but there are also plenty of people like this. The people who move too fast and do too much. The people missing the little things like just lounging out on the quad with friends before class. During my freshman year orientation, I imagined myself doing just that. Now, the image of me unwinding on the grass on a warm spring day sounds pretty laughable.

So where is the balance? College life pulls us in both directions of this spectrum. For extreme-thinkers like me, you’ll find yourself dwelling too far to one of the sides. You can blame it on the school you attend or the friends you surround yourself with, but ultimately, we need to adjust our own mindset.

In this world, you’ll never find the perfect environment. Ever. No one will spoon-feed you the guidelines for an ideal lifestyle because you are in college, not elementary school. I suppose that this is a part of growing up, becoming independent and forming your own, unique personality. So it’s necessary. Painful, but necessary.

I just think we need to be aware of it. Don’t lose the values you hold true just because you feel stuck in a rut of behavior. If you enjoy the little things, but realize you’ve been too structured lately to allow for that enjoyment, make a change. If you’ve always dreamt of doing something, but look back and realize you’ve just been pushing it off forever, make a change. Self-awareness is key—take it from me, the girl who falls in and out of it at least 10 times a day.

Shannon is a junior at Boston College, studying English and Communication. Her passions include running, reading, and eating endless jars of peanut butter.

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