Maintaining Your Balance
Written by Victoria Barry
Dear Past, Present, and Future Freshman,
It wasn’t long ago that I was in your shoes. It is difficult to begin sorting through the many lessons I’ve learned over the past four years. The advice that I believe would be most helpful to you at this is about the idea of balance.
The first semester of my junior year was an extremely busy time. I was taking seventeen credits and working two jobs. Toward the end of the semester, I had five term papers all due at the same time. I got so overwhelmed that pretty much everything – my exercise schedule, sleep, social activities – went out the window. I told myself that I didn’t have time for those things because I needed to finish my homework!
After one particularly anxious day, I called my mom, burst into tears, and asked if she’d still love me if I flunked my classes. As with all things, everything worked out in the end. I finished my papers, did not flunk out of school, and was able to catch up on sleep so that I could begin thinking rationally again.
After that semester, I re-evaluated my approach to school.
I thought back to all of the times I’d picked studying or working on an essay over having dinner with someone or going to a concert. I began to realize that I had allowed grades to dominate much of my life. As students we are called to diligently apply ourselves to our studies. Sometimes, that means saying “no” to social events. However, there are times when you should set your books aside and cultivate relationships with the wonderful people around you.
Chief Rogers, the associate dean of men, once taught me something I will never forget. Over lunch, he asked me, “Why are you here?” I was confused. Did he mean here in Hillsdale, or at this lunch table, or on this earth? As we began to discuss Christianity and the love God has for us, Chief gently reminded me that even when I’m sitting in the library doing homework, I need to remember that there are people I have a responsibility to help.
His words struck me. While we have an obligation to our studies, we also have an obligation to our fellow students – and that means that we have an obligation to care for ourselves. If you do not take care of yourself, you won’t be in the position to lend assistance to others.
Going into the second semester of my junior year, I made a resolution: “I will choose to live a beautiful life over single-mindedly pursuing a beautiful GPA.” This meant recognizing when my body is telling me I need to go to bed, staying on my exercise schedule even when I am unmotivated and have a paper to write, and taking breaks from studying to engage with people.
Maintaining balance is not easy. We all play many roles and have responsibilities that require us to juggle numerous things at once. How do we cope with all of these responsibilities? Here are a few suggestions:
- Pray. Being in constant conversation with God helps us remember that the primary purpose of our lives is to glorify Him. In prayer He gives us the grace and the strength to persevere. By offering everything to Him, we can make all of our actions, including schoolwork, a prayer.
- Gratitude. I have wasted more time than I care to admit either lamenting missed opportunities, or wishing that I could be talented enough to participate in activities I see others doing. Rather than keeping a tally of what you haven’t done, focus on the blessings you have been given. Take a little time daily to reflect on things you are grateful for.
- Make a schedule. If you’re like me, you usually have a running list of things to accomplish. Writing out a schedule gives you a game plan and helps you to be more intentional. It also forces you to evaluate what is most important.
I am by no means an expert in living a balanced life, but each new day is an opportunity to improve. In the words of L.M. Montgomery’s character Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” There are some mistakes you have to make on your own to learn from them, but I hope you can also learn from some of mine.
One last thing: As you are living your balanced life, don’t forget to enjoy its beauty. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”
I wish you all the best,
Victoria Barry is a senior English major and classical education minor. She is an active member of Catholic Society, the president of the A.A. Milne Club, and a volunteer at Mary Randall preschool. In addition to reading and writing, Victoria enjoys baking, singing, and taking long outdoor walks. She plans on teaching elementary school after graduation this spring.