Ever hear of the saying that too much of something is never good for you? Yeah, here’s your confirmation proving that saying absolutely holds true. My ambition drove me to do things I never thought I could summon the confidence to achieve. To do those things I needed to do regardless of everything else because I couldn’t live my life with the thought of not doing it. However, the same ambition that drove me to push the limits of my comfortable boundaries also drove me to the brink of exhaustion. How do you handle ambition without wearing yourself down?
Fortunately, I learned the importance of balance concerning my social life, education, work schedule and personal time my sophomore year of college.
Non-English majors always underestimate the massive workload that English majors face each semester, believing all we do revolve around reading books. Yeah, there’s a lot more than just reading books when you’re an English major. Depending on the number of classes an English major takes, the minimum amount of pages read each week for class tends to fall around 150, along with the discussion questions or responses additionally required for participation during class. Not to mention those 10+ page papers that prove the bane of any English major’s existence around midterm and final season. Any free time available to me at home or on campus involved knocking out the work for my other classes to allocate enough time to spend on my readings, responses and dreaded papers for my English classes.
Additionally, my free time throughout the week and weekends became divided by my work schedules. I worked at my university’s Writing Center during the day and worked predominantly closing shifts at Hot Topic during most Fridays and weekends. Working two jobs — while great for saving up money and resume building — feels terribly exhausting while simultaneously studying as a full-time English major. Remember those 150+ pages of reading I mentioned earlier? They loomed over my head during my shifts, constantly nagging me to stay on top of them before I fell behind on the readings for class. There’s nothing worse than not reading the assigned pages for class and the professor asks you to answer a question or give your opinion on a specific scene. I’m sorry professor, but I just didn’t have the time to read the massive headache called “The Sound and The Fury.”
Despite my hectic schedule as a full-time student and working two part-time positions, I couldn’t bear to let go of either of my jobs. Most students are not as fortunate as I am to stay at one job for longer than a year, either due to their coworkers or impossible schedules. For one, working at my university’s Writing Center became extremely important to me — it allowed me to gain experience in editing and reviewing other people’s papers, in addition to strengthening the voice of my clients. Being given an opportunity to become a novice editor as an undergraduate student allowed me to showcase my editing skills to prospective editorial jobs. Additionally, working at Hot Topic for three years — a store I loved and dreamed of working at as a former emo kid — showed my dedication and seniority to future employers.
Any way that I looked at it, the possibility of quitting either job proved nonexistent.
On top of being overworked, I joined a sorority on campus during the spring of my freshman year. My whole purpose for becoming a sister? To put myself out there and make friends to experience college with. Of course, being my ambitious self, I also volunteered to become the Community Service Chair for my chapter and soon planned several mandatory community events for the sisters. Most community service events were held during the morning on weekends, which meant I would wake up absurdly early to participate in an event before heading to a closing shift at Hot Topic.
Joining a sorority turned into such a great experience because I met the majority of my friends through planned events with other Greek organizations. By joining a sorority, however, I received invites to multiple parties a week. While partying surely created a great way to relieve stress, too much partying also caused stress when I found myself putting off the reading assignments for class.
Juggling Greek life, my two jobs and my studies left me absolutely drained. Sometimes hanging out with friends or sisters felt like a chore more than anything else after multiple long days in a row. I felt that if I missed one sorority event I would be out of the loop, which led me to start begging my boss to approve shift switches and coverages so I could participate in events. On top of switching shifts with coworkers, I felt obligated to return the favor when they needed a shift covered or switched even when it didn’t work for me.
I certainly learned my lesson after being handed back a midterm paper to rewrite, solidifying the ideology that I could say no and not always be sickeningly ambitious.
Instead of going to every single Greek life party or event, I took the time to sleep in or read for personal enjoyment. I even learned how to tell my coworkers that, no, I couldn’t cover their shift because I had a lot of homework to get done.
While every semester of college holds something new, I developed a method of setting aside time for everything I wanted to do. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I feel safe to say that being too ambitious drove me slightly up the wall. Sorority party on Friday? Knock out 50 pages of reading before heading out to a pregame. Friends wanted to grab lunch? Wake up a little earlier to write a page or two before heading out. Having some sort of schedule always proves better than winging it.