Under Extracurricular Pressure…But Just The Right Amount

I am already two weeks into my second semester of my junior year, and life is feeling a bit surreal. Watching the new students arrive on campus and overhearing questions I remember asking when I was a first year makes me realize how many years I’ve been at school already. I know what classes are good, which professors are interesting, the fastest way to get between buildings and how to get involved.

A lot of the time all people talk about is how they are involved in this club, and that club, and that other club. The school encourages getting involved but I have heard horror stories from people about being TOO involved.  Throughout my past two and half years, I have learned what the balance of being too involved and involved just enough is. I meet people who seem to know everyone on campus, and only when walking around with other friends do I realize I am not so far off from that point myself.

After getting heavily involved in three clubs, I have met a wide variety of people, have had life changing experiences and created many different memories. College is a time to embrace being away from your parents and experience things you probably won’t once you are finished with school. Being a part of so many clubs has given me unique experiences and promise to give me many more. I appreciate everything being a club leader has taught me.

Being a club leader is teaching me new skills to use daily. I have learned that dealing with difficult people can be a regular occurrence but patience and understanding is truly a virtue worth having. I have learned when conflicts arise, you need to deal with them head-on and make sure the result is in the best interest of all parties. I have learned to live my life with these beliefs and it has fared well so far. Now I just need to wait until my stress level gets too high to deal with and I crack under the pressure.  My ultimate goal is to avoid that, and so far it’s been working out for me.

Lists Are My Solution to Life

With the start of next semester starting much faster than I am prepared for, I can’t help but start to rack my brain for everything that needs to get done before then. I know I need to get textbooks, get new notebooks, hand in forms to the registrar and grocery shop. All of these things need to happen in the first two days, starting day three my lists get longer.

There is something I love about making lists.  I actively started making lists on a regular basis this past year and it has been a game changer. It might be the visualization of seeing everything I have to do with a check box next to it, or the satisfying feeling of checking something off once it’s done. Sometimes, I will write something down even if I have already finished it just to check it off.

This is the way I have functioned my entire life: I ask what do I need to do, what can I get ahead on, what classes do I need to finish in the next year? Next two years? I have heard on more than one occasion that I am “insane”.  My friends who function the same way understand me though; they understand the insanity I go through making list after list.  Making my lists has to consume at least ten minutes of my time once a day. In college world, ten minutes is enough time to throw laundry into the machines, grab coffee or start a reading.  In other words, it is valuable time. I have tried to find ways to shorten the time it takes, but have not succeeded. I’ve accepted it though because lists keep me functioning. My lists allow me to be in as many leadership roles in clubs as I am and get my schoolwork done ahead of time.

I am already mentally starting lists in my head of things that need to get done the day I get back to school, the next week, and everything in between. I know these lists need to happen so I can relax on vacation.  I think in a way, making these lists helps me relax.  I know people don’t like to think about school over break but I have to; I have to list what needs to happen when.  I guess my desire to have everything done and written down might mean I’m a bit of a control freak, but honestly, if this method helps me succeed, I’m okay with that.

Best Four Years Of Your Life Can Be The Hardest: Adolescence at Its Finest

Growing up, people always said that high school is the best four years of your life. There is something about this statement that bothers me.  Maybe it’s the fact that people who say this loved high school or because people who disagreed never spoke up.

I am one of those people who disagreed with this statement pretty early on in my high school years.  But, I am also someone who has been afraid to create conflict or get into a dispute with people. This has been both a blessing and a curse: I am always looking for ways to avoid conflict, either by finding a resolution or not getting involved if possible, and for many years I was afraid to speak out about my opinion.

By my senior year I learned a valuable skill: how to get into a discussion with someone and manage to argue both sides at one time.  While this skill has gotten me into some trouble when I write papers, it has been very useful in life. The refinement of this skill, the method of saying something positive then getting to the negative came from my writing classes, where we spend hours critiquing people’s writing in this manner. Whenever I am asked a question about something I don’t like, I find a positive.  I did this all throughout high school.  My go-to line when asked about school was “I love my teachers but I have a hard time socially”.  This line has managed to follow me to college, also the four best years of your life.

I can see where whoever said this was coming from. I am having an easier time finding ways to make the social scene work for me in college.  I got involved in clubs, albeit some that are out of the ordinary, and have found what I would like to think is a solid base of friends. If there is anything my high school social experience has taught me, it was that picking trustworthy friends is not easy and people are usually not who you think they are.

Three years later, I keep in touch with two people from high school, maybe three. Looking back, I might have had more close friends, but I didn’t love being social.  I am ecstatic that changed my first year of college.  I think it has made college more enjoyable and has given me many more memories to look back on.  The memories I have made have been amazing but I there is no way I am going to say that I am having an easier time socially. When people ask me about school I still use the line I used in high school, “I love the academics but socially it’s hard”.

Thinking about it now, I was much more reluctant to say this in high school. Now that I have experienced college and have had time to reflect on my experience in high school, I think that if someone says they don’t struggle socially, they are not being honest with themselves. There are people out there who are naturally good in crowds of people, but at this adolescent age, no social situation is easy. I know this might sound negative, and I already said how I like to find the positive in every situation, but I think it is important to keep this fact in mind.  Being a teenager and a college student is hard. This is an honest and hard fact that people shouldn’t be embarrassed by. It’s a stage in everyone’s lives and once they get through it, the struggles you encounter change and tend to get easier. The one thing that makes this time in our lives easier is how we deal with situations, the easiest way to do this is to go with the flow, roll with the punches, or whatever line you like to use.  Life at this point is less than predictable, but there is nothing we can do about it but to let life take us in the direction it’s supposed to.

Exercising is Key: A New Realization

This past summer, something finally kicked and I started working out more.  The result: I was in a better mood, feeling better about myself and had a much lower stress level. Promising to work out on a regular basis has been one I always put on my resolution list and usually disregarded a month in.  My routine from this summer has stayed the same. I got myself a trainer at school and continued tennis lessons nearby. I don’t think I have been this low stress during school since the second semester of my senior year of High School. The motivating factor behind it has transitioned from my concern for my physical appearance to how good I feel when I work out, what a difference it makes for the people around me, and for my stress level.

My realization sheds light on why this resolution to stay fit never stuck before.  It had always been about how I looked, or how others looked compared to me.  It was never about my own mental health. Seeing the huge impact it has for me has only made this a resolution I want to keep, not just for this coming year, but also for years to come. I am familiar with struggling to cope with emotional experiences and remembering to keep a positive attitude.

Now, my coping method is exercising.  It gives me an opportunity to get out of a stressful situation and lose myself in my music and the treadmill. Lifting weights takes my mind off other things going on for a half hour.  Tennis focuses my brain and body on something else instead of whatever is going on back at school.  Something that used to wipe me out now gives me fuel; seven AM workouts have become a new personal favorite. I am so thankful that this resolution has reappeared and has taken off.  My experience with exercising alone goes to show that resolutions can’t be forced upon someone.  They are very much like life: they might be given to you at the moment you need it most but it’s up to you to pick it up and run with it. It’s in your power and yours alone to make it a valuable experience.