THE BALANCING ACT
For most people my age, life revolves around 1 of 2 things, or a lovely combination of both that I like to call purgatory. These two giants cast a shadow in our lives and color everything a shade of exhaustion and dictate what we can and cannot do with our free time, if we're lucky enough to have any. Some of us are that lucky and we look forward to the weekend like it’s the last train home, we rush towards it at 100 mph trying to forget all the awful things we had to deal with that week. From complex customer relation issue to that one manager who's on us like white on rice on a paper plate in a snowstorm, or that dreaded commute home on the 1 train during rush hour. We just need a way to purge ourselves of this joke called adulthood. Yes, we were warned but you can't ever prepare someone to have their head repeatedly pushed under icy cold water. And yes, this is what it can feel like – like drowning in an ice cold river. Okay, that’s a little dramatic but these 7am shifts are about to make my heart stop. Please stand-by for my will. Wait, scratch that – Sally Mae will probably come for you if you're on my will because in addition to working full time, I am a full time student. And these, my good people, are the two satellites casting shadows of sleep deprivation and acute mental breakdown in my life.
Many 20-something-year olds are employed full time and are pursuing a college degree, while having a full time job seems to be uncommon these days and is highly desired- those of us who also go to school full time have a whole different beast to wrestle with. Trying to find the balance between work and school seems like something impossible to find happiness in, but we have no choice so we might as well start trying to NOW.
I decided to return to school last year because the clock is ticking and while I know that college isn't for everyone – it certainly is for me. I'm going to be a teacher someday and college is obviously a necessary tool that will help me achieve this goal. I went to college after graduating from high school and decided to come home after my sophomore year for several reasons that I don't want to bore you with right now. So what's the point of me complaining about this crippling workload called ‘you're an adult now’? Well, I want to demonstrate that it's possible. And not only is it possible- it's rewarding as f*ck. I know sometimes we want to straight up collapse onto the ground while sitting in an 8am class and I know that sometimes we want to slap-box our managers because of their selective amnesia when it comes to our schedule restrictions, but fret not because as Jada would so eloquently put it - we gon make it.
How exactly we make it and the degree of our success depends on our own efforts. If I have any advice to give it’s the following:
1- Plan ahead
2- Give 100% even when it's 100% of 50% of you (don't you dare ask me to do the math on that because we will be here for ages)
3- Set aside time for YOURSELF. My mother is adamant in telling me how I need to rest, and while her definition of rest is different from mine - she's completely right. Let me break these 3 pieces of advice down for you.
So the first order of business is to plan ahead – I know I sound like a teacher right now but it's because I'm practicing ... Duh! Planning ahead consists of more than just doing the 30 page reading assignment during that 30 minute break you have between classes-- and I know that catching up on live tv and joining the ‘Twitter couch’ is super important to you but you’re sacrificing something much more valuable than the finale of ‘The Night Of’ – you're sacrificing your own time. Time is the one thing that eludes us all and causes all sorts of chaos to unravel in our lives when not properly used. Time is out of our control and seems to always disappear faster than we can move and it’s a grenade waiting to go off in the life of a college student. So please make the best of the time you’re given and dedicate the necessary hours needed for your assignments. You will never regret planning ahead for your projects, but if you also work full time then I guarantee, you will always regret staying up until 3am writing a paper you've known about for 4 weeks. DON’T be the person who does this because you will feel like you're going to die and the worst part is that you don't actually die- you still need to go to class the next morning or worse, work for 10 hours. Which is what happened to me last semester.
So back to those percentages- yuck, I know. Don't worry math and I are like oil and water and I will never do that to you again. Anyways, 100% my good people – please show your professors that you're taking full advantage of their services and don't waste your financial aid for a semester because you wanted to bullshit your way through it. That's exactly what I did and now I have 2.5 years left of TAP and Pell (financial aid) and will probably have to finish school without this financial assistance. Please stand by for the GoFundMe account! In addition to financial aid, I am also fortunate enough to attend a CUNY school, where tuition is remarkably lower than other institutions. If you're from NYC then you live in one of the five boroughs that are home to many CUNY colleges and believe me when I say it – CUNY is a godsend. Please take advantage of the resources these institutions offer. That's a part of the 100% - making an effort to use every possible resource available to you. Do it for YOU. Don't do it for your parents, or to compete with others, don't do it because people say that a college education is your only option. Do it with a genuine desire to allow the college experience to bring a fullness into your life. And never forget that you are the controller of your destiny. It's also important to note that only you know that's best for you. My advice might not apply to you and that's perfectly okay! I encourage you to find your own message of truth and honor it, always.
Now how do we set time aside for ourselves when 40 hours of our week are dedicated to work and 16 hours are dedicated to class time? And not to mention the 2-3 hours per class that we have designated for homework because yes, we are giving 100% and nothing less. We do so with grace. Some people release the stress and toxins of the week with dancing, some do it with quiet reflection and some write it out. I do a combination of the three. I have 1 day of the week that is completely my own- Saturday’s! And as I mentioned in previous posts, my Saturday's are relatively lit. I use turnt up outings to release the tension I've accumulated throughout the workweek, I use my quiet walks through Riverside Park and long strolls through the back trails of Fort Tryon (or as I like to call it, Fort Try-Me) to set a game plan for upcoming homework assignments and to communicate through writing my experiences with people and to connect with others, in the hopes that [it] starts to make more sense. Well, I know that it makes sense but it's always so fulfilling to share an experience and have someone identify with that and I can't thank you all enough for motivating me to do so.
That being said, I challenge you to show up to each class this coming week with all your reading done and with your completed assignments that are obviously getting an A+... I challenge you to go to work and show them that you are a valuable member of the team and can dedicate yourself while still being a hard-working student. I challenge you to do something that you love as a reward for your effort and success this week. I am always rooting for you, whoever you are. If it ever gets too overwhelming and if you ever feel like stopping then please keep this in mind – the world would be drastically different and a lot emptier without you. Your existence brings meaning to the lives of so many people and you were made to fulfill your destiny. The likelihood of us existing is 1 in 400 trillion and if that isn’t motivation to doggedly pursue our very deepest wishes then we should probably check our pulses because we might actually have died while writing that 10 page paper the night before it's due.
Again, I'm not very skilled in the math department but if there's one thing that I do know – the universe conspires for each of us because we are but one single shaft of light in the prism that is existence. Never fear failure or the possibility of having to try again, but rather, look forward to the chance to prove yourself to those who believe in you.. to prove wrong those who doubt you and most important of all – look forward to the chance to prove yourself to YOU!