Question to the editors: As we return to campus and in-person classes, how can I balance my schoolwork, work and social life? How do I find myself after the pandemic?
These are two very large questions for college students as we wrangle with an age in our life where our goal is to not only find ourselves but also balance school and life perfectly. However, if you don’t know how to do that, it’s okay — none of the rest of us do either. It’s perfectly acceptable to explore who you think you are and who you want to be, but don’t expect that the rest of your life will be mess-free while you try to balance everything. You, first and foremost, are human and need to apply that line of thinking rather than a perfectionist attitude while attempting to get a college degree.
We as a society often romanticize and glamorize the college experience, especially through the media we consume. The truth is that while college can be uniquely freeing and should be a period of self exploration, it also requires difficult choices. College is hard, and no one, even the most prepared students, can get through it while perfectly balancing classwork, work and life. Priorities must be made.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us found ourselves to be vastly different from the people we were circa March 2020; with that change may have come a shift in priorities and career ambitions. Maybe something once paramount to your college and life goals has fallen by the wayside during this past year, and you’re unsure of how to deal with it. That’s okay! Step one should always be to evaluate your options and decide: “What will make me happy?”
Perhaps what makes you happy isn’t what you are studying or planning on doing as a career. It’s important to have hobbies or interests outside of school that you can use to take your mind off of things when you feel overwhelmed or stressed.
As for work in the pandemic, everyone should just get a pass; don’t judge yourself too harshly after everything you’ve been through. Whether you worked in person at a job that didn’t provide the safety measures and compensation you deserved, or you picked up another freelance gig to make ends meet, we’ve all suffered this past year. The workplace is not the same as it was a year ago, which means that balancing a job with classes will inevitably require growing pains.
It’s imperative that as we begin seeing friends and family again after so long, we should all agree that we are not asking what they got done in quarantine, and we are not commenting if their bodies or personalities have changed. We also need to remember that some of us may have found solace in our homes and are really scared to go back out again; don’t pressure anyone.
As we tighten our backpack straps, clutch our books and rocket toward this year, we’ve come to understand a different relationship between ourselves and the work that we do as students. Early during the pandemic, there was an overwhelming sense of opportunism where the isolated days, weeks and months could turn into something productive; but maybe you never did get started on that passion project, maybe you never started that book or got your bench up, maybe you found out you were bad at building birdhouses — that’s fine. Especially during these times, surviving is enough.
Think of it this way — you’re managing to survive a pandemic and a new page is turning. You may have heard this already but let us be the ones to reiterate: whatever emotions you may be feeling are valid. You’re valid for surviving and continuing when it seemed like everything we knew was turned upside down, and everything you’re feeling because of that is normal.
Making sure that you eat your meals, sleep eight hours a day, brush your teeth or keep your room clean is enough. To quote the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” And here you are reading this; a testament to the strength we hoped we’d never have to use but have exhausted nonetheless.
In fear of failure, in fear of never becoming our best selves, in fear of being mediocre, we are willing to sacrifice that which keeps us soundly dignified, content and stable — our mental wellbeing and the core aspects of our personality that ground us to reality. But this stretches deeper than taking a “mental health day;” this goes beyond corporate mindfulness training or that transient thing we brand “self-care.”
We must remember and establish that we are not in school just so that we become mere resources to be taken advantage of and capitalized off of when we graduate.
This upcoming semester brings a new opportunity for us to reconsider why we came to this University in the first place: to broaden our opportunities so that we may be able to live and exist as free people. As we all begin our first in-person semester in over a year, remember how far we’ve all come and that you are not alone. You’re about to enter a campus filled with students who all experienced a hellish educational year as well, so give yourself a much-deserved break.
The Editorial Board