I came into college as a shy, insecure girl. High school, contradictory to the cliche, wasn’t the greatest four years of my life, and I was looking forward to being handed these next four as an opportunity to be somebody new. I could be whoever I wanted to be.
I quickly embraced this idea and dived into things that I might have written off before. I joined a sorority. I joined a lot of different clubs, actually. I got a job. I made plenty of new friends. I changed my major. I was genuinely creating myself, piece by piece.
When freshman year ended, I was ecstatic at how my year went. I was so proud of the person I became. I lost weight, I received an award for becoming an emerging leader, and I finally didn’t feel like an outcast.
I went into sophomore year with eager, open arms. I continued taking on new things – including joining a business fraternity, holding leadership positions in clubs (including President of my sorority), and a getting a new, more professional job. I also decided to pick up a minor and two certificates. Again, another successful year ended, and I was never happier.
Junior year came, and the cycle continued. But something was different. Some of my close friends had transferred, I suffered from a minor disappointment in my love life (nothing worth actually mentioning or diving into), and I continued to take on new clubs and organizations and positions.
As a Junior, I held positions in THON, Panhellenic Council, Delta Sigma Pi, Student Government Association, and was President of my sorority for a second year in a row. I took on an internship on top of my job. I had a heavy academic load for two semesters. People often commented “I don’t know how you do it” or “You’re always going.” Initially, I was flattered.
But they didn’t see the whole picture. I noticed I started slipping. I woke up a little past 10 one day, realizing I didn’t even hear my alarm for my 9:05. It was completely unlike me, but mistakes happen. But then it happened two more times within the next two weeks. Maybe I was just sleep deprived. I was used to running on 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night, but maybe it was all catching up to me as I went on my third year. It never occurred to me that it was unhealthy to have a habit like that to begin with.
I came back to my apartment one day during my break to study for my Finance exam. I ended up crashing and then woke up 5 minutes before the exam. Finance was already a struggle for me, so I panicked as I sprinted across campus to make it to my exam that I knew I couldn’t possibly do well on. I started calling into work because I just didn’t have the energy.
Bit by bit, I unwinded. I was burnt out. Junior year was hard, but it was a revelation. I did it all until I couldn’t anymore.
And I don’t think anybody should live like that, yet I know so many people that do.
It isn’t impressive to be overwhelmed. It’s isn’t thrilling to have a tight, packed 14-hour schedule set in stone every day. It isn’t cool to be the one running all the time when underneath you are actually the one crumbling.
Take care of yourself first. You don’t have to be the best at everything. You don’t have to do everything. This is so important, and I hope somebody can breathe a little easier reading that. I wish I had somebody to pull me aside and tell me that before it got too far. I wish it didn’t take my grades taking a downfall and my boss pulling me aside at work one day to ask if I was okay for me to realize that.
It’s great to put yourself out there, but before you put yourself out there – put yourself first.