Finding Your Own Balance

Everyone knows that the transition from high school to college is a big jump. From living on your own to making new friends to pursuing a career path and beyond, college students undergo plenty of soul-searching, learning and new experiences. However, something I feel is never candidly discussed is the freedom to choose your new lifestyle.

That may sound vague, but let me explain. In high school, our time was so regimented, especially under our parents’ watch. There was not a lot of choice in what our schedules looked like and how we chose to prioritize our time. However, beyond our time constrained by schoolwork, college students are overwhelmed with newfound freedom.

However, from my experiences, more often than not, this freedom dwindles down to one, expected option: going on out weekend nights. Whether this means a party, or just staying up and watching movies with friends or whatever else, the hyper-socialization of college tends to make me feel guilty or less than any time I choose to spend my free nights in my own company.

I’ve always basked in alone time. Growing up, I’d always annoy my mother by asking her to call off my “play-dates” with friends just hours beforehand because I so often just preferred to do my own thing, and socializing has always tired me out in a sense. But ever since coming to college, where there’s always talk of the next party or what’s happening tonight, and especially with the rise of social media where people tend to post pictures of them dressed up for nights out, my once cherished nights in are now shadowed with a feeling of guilt. Thoughts like “You only go to college once!” or, “You don’t remember the nights where you got enough sleep” whisper in my brain and I begin to kick myself for not taking advantage of my youth. Social pressures have turned my ideal day—early morning wake up, smash out a workout, be productive, chill night in—into something I feel ashamed about.

While it is valid that you have your whole life to go to bed early and get work done, it’s also equally valid to not enjoy waking up late, feeling groggy and disheveled and just unhealthy. This Friday night, I went to bed early and went to the (empty) gym at 8:30 the next morning, had a great, fulfilling workout, and felt accomplished and content the rest of my day while I wondered why I don’t do this more often.

I, like many others, fall into the habit of living my life based on others’ standards. I feel as though I must post pictures of me living it up and squeezing every drop of freedom and youth out of my college years. And this pressure has stopped me from doing the things I genuinely love—early mornings, intense workouts, feeling awake and healthy—just to appeal to people who are caught up in their own lives and definitely don’t care how I spent my Friday night.

We all have our own balances. I know from my experience that I am happiest and healthiest when I only go out once a week, and am learning to listen to my body. Others may thrive when they stay up until 3 AM four days a week, and they shouldn’t feel guilty about following what they prefer to do, either.

The freedom college gifts us does not have to be spent one way or another. The way YOU choose to use it is the beauty of these formative four years—these decisions are our first steps towards forming our own individuality and sense of self. And that is much more important than anything that can be found in a textbook.