In any college environment, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the pressing juggling act of balancing schoolwork, extracurricular work, social lives, significant others, keeping in touch with home friends, making time to call your mom, figuring out your schedule/possible internships for next year – at Penn especially, where every person around you seems to have their life for the next ten years mapped out entirely, it’s hard to sometimes be able to cut yourself some slack.
Yet, there are few things – if anything – more important than your mental health and your emotional state. Coming into my sophomore year, I felt that I had finally gotten down a rhythm of what I could and could not handle – yet, I found I was completely mistaken, as I found myself once again falling into the Penn trap of overscheduling academically, joining too many clubs, taking on too many positions, and already panicking about the next summer’s internship positions.
This realization occurred to me last week, when I noticed that I hadn’t had a chance to listen to music in four days – listen to music. Something that shouldn’t even be considered a privilege, but that I realized I had turned into one because of how overly busy I had made myself.
Over the course of many nervous phone calls with my mother and too many stressed conversations bothering my boyfriend for advice, I realized that no one could really justify to me preserving my own happiness besides myself.
Despite my housemates’ and friends’ urges otherwise, I dropped a class, taking only four this semester because of my other commitments on- and off-campus. And, I was shocked at the amount of shame I felt in doing so, refraining from telling many in my inner social circle because I felt I wasn’t doing enough.
How absurd a thought? To not be doing enough when I found myself, still, in the library for seven hours a day? To feel guilty about taking time to just listen to music or read the new Harry Potter play?
I think, finally, after a year and some change in this environment, I have finally realized that I don’t need to be the most competitive human here and can just actually find a happy medium, as challenging as it was to mentally get here, and I found myself now encouraging all of my stressed-out homies to do the same. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is give yourself a break at our age – I encourage all readers, then, to take a fifteen minute break out of your day for some introspection to see if what you’re doing is really making you happy. And, if not, think about what you can do to change that – as simple as it sounds, it’s actually a lot harder than you think. But the most important, also.