The stress factor

I am running out of time. October is speeding toward us, and I feel as if I am on a runaway train speeding through life. The days slip into weeks, and I don’t seem to be able to stop and catch my breath. I like to keep myself busy, but how far can I push myself before I am overloaded? Before I fumble this juggle of priorities, and the whole act comes crashing down?

College students face a unique dilemma. On the surface, we go to school for a living. We are studying for a better future, ideally for our dream career. If you are lucky enough to love your major (if not, maybe you should consider changing), then you enjoy many of your classes. We live a life of privilege: the privilege of a higher education.

But there is a flip side of this coin. The fact is most college students probably work harder in this period of their lives than they ever have before and ever will again – except, of course, grad school and parenting newborns.

We juggle full-time class schedules with work-studies, internships, part-time and even full-time jobs. Including class time, many of us put in 40 hours minimum of work each week, and then we go home and study for another two or three hours before we crash into our beds past midnight. Is it any wonder why we daydream about sleep and fuel our marathon schedules with too much sugar and caffeine?

We hate this life, but we also love it. The late nights and early mornings, the constant rush, a million things to do and only 24 hours in which to get it all done. We are in limbo, caught between the freedom of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. I still leave my dirty laundry in a heap on the floor, and I miss the days of Disney movie marathons. At the same time, I crave responsibility as the stimulant that pushes me to do more than retreat within my shell and waste away my college years.

The second that diploma is in our hands, we will become full-fledged college graduates, ready to take on the world and launch our careers. That’s our plan, anyway. But let’s not kid ourselves. That dream job – or really any job – is going to require a lot more than a slip of paper with a signature, regardless of the 4, 8 or 12 years we put in to earn it. We have to put in our sweat equity if we want to get one foot in the door.

And so, we stretch ourselves a little bit further. We enlist ourselves in various campus organizations to expand our skill set and gain professional experience. We work that part-time job over the weekends to save money for student loans. We volunteer in our community. We keep up with our work-studies. We try (less and less frequently as the year progresses) to keep our bodies in shape, and we squeeze in a few hours here and there for friends, hobbies or possibly sleep.

But hey, we’re young! We can take the stress. We can handle this. In the end, we’ll probably wish we had done even more. Some say college is the best time of your life; I think they probably majored in Greek life (No offense, my sorority and fraternity friends. I tease you because I love you!). Point in case, college is no walk in the park. Personally, I hope my best days are ahead of me, and I’m ready to stop looking to the past to try to figure out how to live my present. So, get involved. Get in over your head. Make mistakes. I promise, it won’t be the end of the world. You will get through this semester, and you will be better for it.