Well, that’s over.
The year of 2019 at UC Riverside has ended. First-year students have finally gotten their first taste of the acclaimed college experience, and learned that the grading scale is their best friend; second and third-years are picking up internships; and fourth-years have graduated and probably drank the night away on the day of their commencement.
Regardless of which road you walked down this year on campus, be proud that you finally reached the end of it; but forgive me for recollecting that there’s thousands more beyond your sight. And with all of them in mind, everyone in college is susceptible to maddingly dash down every one of them.
Yet no matter how far ahead or behind you are of the game, it doesn’t matter as we stand at the year’s end. Rather, remember this while you’re standing at the end of the first of many more finish lines: you’re tired. Forget what the world is telling you to do.
Just breathe. Right now, you’re thinking about what went wrong this year, or right, and what you ought to do next, or shouldn’t. But you have spent a year working non-stop for an institution that expects so much out of its students, they label our time spent on campus as part-time or full-time; you thought only jobs would be considered such, and better yet some of us work jobs while being a student. Do you want to keep running your systems non-stop with stress? It’s summer!
For just a moment, forget every worry you have and every obligation you’ll be having outside of school, and just make a promise to take care of yourself this summer, in whatever way that might be. Consider what you put your mind and body through this year, especially the most draining of experiences: the late nights of last-minute work, coffee, eye-strain and hunched backs; the hell weeks of midterms covering topics that you don’t remember reviewing; the days when you only ate a piece of white bread for breakfast because you ran out of money.
Whether or not those bad experiences could have been avoided, if you don’t remind yourself that they weren’t the healthiest battle tactics, your body will tell you when the exhaustion comes up to shut you down. Organization skills are effective in combating heavy workloads, but you’ll only really be prepared to take them on when your mind in a better state than it was throughout the year. However, as you search for what brings you peace, in whatever you do…
If you’re not enjoying yourself, hit the brakes. Take another avenue for a bit, or if you have to, simply turn off your engine. What’s the point of doing what you love if you don’t love doing it? It’s our hobbies that give us the opportunity to relieve stress and bring our mind to ease, but you don’t remove toxins by adding more in the process. Getting sick of missing the frets on the guitar? Blow off that steam some other way, your muscle memory will come by eventually. Can’t quite reach those high notes yet? Don’t strain your throat trying to get it all right away, simply take things slow and come back later. It’s a bit ironic that I’m suggesting you find distractions for your distractions.
But perhaps it isn’t; doing the same thing over and over and over again will always become a mental strain, without fail, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you’re working your day job or chasing your passions, you’ll begin to realize that every day starts looking exactly the same, and there’s no way that you won’t grow at least a bit tired of running the same routes.
It’s impossible to think that college students don’t run into this cycle of burnout, and it’s vital that they and the world learn how to break it. Variety is the spice of life: learn how to make life as exciting as it can be, searching for whatever it is that makes you ooze joy. But in finding your happiness, take care to find balance in searching and relaxing.
The best pace to take is yours, but be mindful of the extremes. Let the gears rest too long, and rust deems them unrunnable; let the gears run forever and stress warps the metal until everything falls apart. Consider those gears as our mindset; the more often we treat them one way or the other, the more susceptible we think that way is okay.
But nothing nature has wrought is meant to remain or continue forever. Rainy skies nourish the land only to give way to calmer clouds, but rain always comes again. Seedlings grow tall only to come back to the earth in time, yet reinvigorate the soil for it to happen all over again. In the same way, people are built to — meant to — run the cycle of in-betweens.
A tree that grows forever reaches the Sun, but then combusts itself and the surrounding forest; you would not want to do such a thing to yourself and your loved ones, working non-stop and destroying your relationships. A sky that never thunders will not water the fields for harvest; you would not want the time spent on this Earth to amount to nothing, letting life pass by.
Knowing how tall to grow and how long to let the rain fall comes with practice, but it’s much better to feel things out and gradually become better at managing it all, than to take things too far and realize it too late. So as we’re all trying to figure out what to do next, with the next chapter of our lives right around the corner, know that it’s okay to be unsure of what’s beyond the fog: as long we step forward confidently and consciously, we’ll reach every finish line all the same.
So take your time — it’s yours, after all.