As my midterms draw to a close and I start packing for fall break, I've come to realize that I am downright exhausted. Not just that I've not gotten enough sleep or that I am feeling physically sluggish, but that my brain has disintegrated into a pile of ashes from the amount of work I have put it through. This is not my first encounter with a burnout, but it hasn't been this severe or as taxing on me as in the past. These past couple weeks I have felt like a zombie and the only thing that can being me back to a state of normalcy is two cups of coffee, at least.
I know I am not the only student who feels this way. During midterm week, you see all the extremes that people go through: staying up into the library till 1 a.m., drinking 10+ cups of coffee throughout the day, isolating themselves in their rooms for days on end just to be able to focus on studying without distractions; all of which I have fell victim to over the semester. And the after effects of these routines become more devastating as the semester goes on. I've seen fellow classmates come out of midterms with bags under their eyes, holding a cup of delicious caffeinated liquid in their cold hands all while dragging their feet back to their dorm rooms in hopes of a nap to sleep away the pain.
On the other hand, I have seen other students who can actually function and go on with their lives as if midterms are not crashing down on them yet and are able to keep up such good grades in the classroom. The fact that I am not one of those students makes me wonder how I can't be that way. It wasn't till actually talking to one of the university councilors that I finally got my answer. I ended up making an appointment with the university's free counseling service during midterms week because I just felt so upset, scared, and overall anxious about my studies that I decided I need to rant to someone about it. When I arrived for my appointment, the counselor simply asked me why I suddenly decided to make an appointment. It was then I opened the flood gates. For a solid fifteen minutes, I ranted on how much I had to do in so little time, the amount of homework I had to do over break, my exhaustion, and the fact that I felt like I had a twenty-five pound load just resting on my shoulder and there was nothing I could do about it. All and all, I felt as if I wanted to give up because it felt too much for me to handle and it was only midterms.
She then asked me a simple question: "Why are you stressing out so much about something that is going to be irrelevant in less than three years time?"
Well. Dang. She got me there. As I sat back in the chair and looked outside to see the leaves fall from the tree right by the window, I honestly felt like an idiot. The answer itself was right in front of me the entire time: I was worrying over something irrelevant to my future self. I'm no stranger to stress and what it does to me, but this time it was really different. Going through my sophomore year of college, a lot is at stake when it comes to choosing what major I want to pursue for the rest of my life. With everything around me solidifying, the one thing that I feel like I have control over in my life at the moment is time and how I spend it. To me, seeing an A on my midterm grade was all that mattered. I pushed myself beyond my limits in order to extend beyond my own expectations, which in the end lead to my own deterioration.
But as she said, will it really matter later? Will my grades on these midterms, or even this semester's finals make me happy down the road? Am I going to look back on my sophomore year of college and say "I'm so glad I spent my college life cooped up in a library cubicle with my nose in a book?" No. The difference between me and those functioning students was the aspect of balance. Balance in social life, mental health, self care and studies all of what make up a rounded person in college. It's personally something that I am going to force myself to learn in order to make my college life a little more enjoyable. I want to make memories here; to go to school events with friends, to take a break, to enjoy being independent before I am forced out into the world of adulting on my own.
So hear it from me: never let your studies be worth more than your college experience. You only get one shot with the same people and opportunities, so make the most out of it. Time may not always be on our side, but we can sure do our best to make the best of it while we still have it.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have four midterms worth of sleeping to catch up on.