Finding Your Limits

This semester has been, for me, the one where I find my limits. I am currently in the process of discovering the maximum number of commitments I can take on, and my maximum ability to handle it all. The good news is that I am a mere first-semester sophomore, and from here on out I can budget my time responsibly, thereby never doing this to myself again. The bad news is that until that first, sweet day of winter break, I must bear this burden.

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To be fair, everyone at Swarthmore is stressed to some degree, and I am by no means the most over-worked nor the most stressed out person here. Yes, taking 5.5 credits and two six-hour per week extracurriculars and three campus jobs makes me an easy contender for misery poker, but in reality I have time for it all. I miss a practice when there’s a conflict. I work quickly on my homework and I do readings only to the point of sufficient comprehension. I’m lucky to have campus jobs that are flexible and low time-commitment. I still eat meals and sleep 7-9 hours a day, which is a privilege for most people. Sometimes I even hang out with friends.

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But even though I am physically able to manage my commitments, I’m now learning that it comes at a cost. When I spend a day jumping between back-to-back commitments, it’s harder for me to mechanically power through my homework at the end of the day. When I don’t have any time for pure relaxation, I’m unable to manage my schedule stress-free. I can’t devote as much time as I’d like to each of my classes. I can’t see all my friends on a regular basis.

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When taking on commitments, you have to factor in time for yourself. Just because there are 24 hours in a day doesn’t mean that each hour can be filled. Over-committing doesn’t only impact me; it impacts each of my commitments, which all require more than a tired and unfocused physical presence. I like to think that I’ve mastered the art of “fake it till you make it,” and I do put as much effort in as I can. But in the end, I begin to resent each of my commitments which, on their own, I would otherwise enjoy.

I’m sure there are people who can do all this with even less free time than I have and still be smiling. I’m now learning that just because someone else can do it doesn’t mean I need to as well. In an environment like Swarthmore, it’s easy to get caught up in the vast amount of amazing opportunities available to you and want to do it all. I look around me and see so many talented people doing incredible things with their time here. But the key is quality, not quantity, when it comes to commitment. Next semester, I have one sole commitment: to only sign up for things that I can manage and still enjoy. Will I follow this rule throughout the rest of my time here? Probably not. But at least now I understand and have experienced the consequences.

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