We’ve All Got to Take Care of Ourselves

Tgaston_2here’s something about looking at a campus calendar that brings me excitement and dread. Or any calendar or event invitation for that matter. For one thing, I really love knowing about the coming guest concerts at the concert hall, that impending department social, or even a talk in the middle of the day. But I also hate knowing everything that’s happening, because I know I want to go to all sorts of events and activities, even as I also know I’ve got all sorts of deadlines ahead to meet.

For some Quest Scholars, I would imagine that finding the opportunities for life on campus outside of the classroom are enthralling. It was, and still is, for me. Dinner discussion on the Hong Kong protests? I’m in. Poetry reading from a veteran? Where do I go? Rosh Hashanah service? I’m not Jewish but I sure want to understand and celebrate! (In truth, I was there optionally for my work in the campus Chapel.) I’ve always desired to live socially, to engage with ideas and people outside of class, to enjoy what I know I haven’t always had in the high school days when it came to social or educational opportunities, or even back with my family in general.

All of this is great and all, though it seems now, as it was last year, that I find myself still at a point of imbalance when it comes to managing my time. The issue is in both the volume of time spent, and the kinds of involvement I have. This even includes my own extracurriculars that I lead, since I commit more time toward planning meetings and coordinating events. Sure, all kinds of the involved community life are great. But at the expense of schoolwork? Not so great. I have been searching for this balance between academic obligations, extracurricular obligations, and my free time being involved in the campus community, but it’s one I haven’t achieved just yet. I can’t seem to shake off that yearning to be everywhere at once.

And being all over the place just stretches you out… like stress on a rope. Oh wait, yeah, the s-word. Stress. My imbalances are the greatest contributor to my stresses in life at Carleton. And I’m not alone. Whatever kinds of commitments that we have, necessary or not, a lot of us Quest Scholars are deeply involved in activities and work (the paid kind). Sometimes the imbalances are too much. I know it’s getting to me when I’m more tired in lecture than I should be, and when I feel like I don’t want to talk to people much whenever I’m outside of my room or in study-mode.

Funny how it’s caught up with me, time-management. It’s a skill I thought I had worked out. I prioritized a lot in high school – studies and homework were always important and were always done. Sure, like a lot of high school seniors back then, I was overcommitted, but I managed by getting overall less sleep throughout the week – sound familiar? Nowadays that’s just too risky to do. Commitments aren’t really bad, nor are activities. Quantity and quality are just the only concerns. And even though I did get reminders on time management back then, I never really heeded them.

I may pay the price now, with the higher stress of college life, but it’s a problem that is still solveable – after all, if I innovated my way throughout life to this point, I’m sure I can balance things and manage my stress. Besides using the tools of organization like your calendars, and your planners, reach out for help. Friends are a great source for accountability: check up on them and their balance, and let them check up on you. When they say you look tired, it’s with the best intentions. Your friends do care – otherwise why would they tell you that! When it comes to official help, seek your academic support centers. I know I will very soon. There are coaches and staff trained to be able to guide you through time management, or any issue in the academic life.

The biggest thing I’ll have to solve coming up is challenging myself about my perceptions of time. Lots of assignments and projects will always take time; thus, I’ll have to plan accordingly and make time. It’s all in the awareness. And it’s what will save all of us from being overcommitted and without the time we need. We’ve all got to take care of ourselves, even our own time. Because time is the most finite of all things in a finite life. (And now it’s time… to get back to work…).

Gaston Lopez, Quest Scholar, Carleton ’17