Some Work, Some Play

I am about to say something incredibly pretentious, but there is a point: when I pictured myself at Yale before starting, I imagined reading Middlemarch for my Victorian literature class in a big, warmly lit library, surrounded by my new best friends as they made their way through French homework, a chem write-up, or a volume of Meditations. We would look up and whisper something occasionally, but my endless pages of Elliot would fly by in the midst of good friends and the unsaid understanding of how lucky we were to be studying in this space.

I did not go to boarding school and so I had never really had to mix school work and friends. I would dedicate part of my after-school hours to one, and part to the other. In college, you are supposed to balance both—at the same time. Let me tell you, I did not get through very many pages of Middlemarch as I sat with my friends. So, my first year, I saw libraries ironically as a social space, looking up every few minutes to see who had entered or who was whispering to whom. I completed my work, but it took hours longer than necessary, staying up until those horrible speakers blared in bass saying that it was closing for the night at the ungodly hour, 1:45 am. 

Sophomore year, I vowed I wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of my first year. I abandoned libraries, replacing them with random coffee spots and my dorm room. I was more productive alone, but my level of stress increased. Every space I entered was a work space. The question kept creeping back into my mind if I was supposed to be reading when I was lying in bed at night or if I should be writing my paper as I sat eating my lunch at Book Trader Cafe. I wasn’t going to bed as late, but I still was working until I fell asleep and again, I could not draw any boundaries between school and personal life.

This year I have made promises to myself to create boundaries between my academic and social life. These rules are not set in stone – I know I will break them occasionally when big assignments come up – but, I hope they will help me enjoy all aspects of life at Yale.

I have made three main rules for myself. Firstly, no work after dinner. Remember when you were in the second grade and you could come home and spend time with friends or family without worrying about your arithmetic assignment or your spelling homework? I am reverting to that. I will finish my work before dinner. I am hoping that this will make me be productive in the hours when I am supposed to be working and give me the chance to enjoy some study-free time. Secondly, no work in “living spaces.” I will no longer do real work in my bed or in my apartment in general. I want to separate places that feel like school and places that feel like home, even if they are in close proximity to one another. Thirdly, and most importantly, try and find a balance. I was not entirely wrong my first-year of college in wanting to work with friends. It depends how time-consuming the assignment is or how much mental energy I need to dedicate to it. For me, I have learned that problem sets, or flashcards are easier to do in libraries with friends rather than reading all of Middlemarch as I attempted that first year of college.

Finding a balance is by no means easy and I clearly have not mastered it, but it is something I am determined to work toward my Junior year.