You Can Fit It All… But Should You?

Going back to college when in your 20s can be nerve-wracking. At first, life as a student excited me because of the things I was about to learn, the student discounts I would get in different venues, and the possibility of making new friends. However, as time went on stress added itself to the picture, harming the joy I felt for starting school again. 

When I started at the community college, I noticed most of my classmates were much younger than me. Although I was learning and getting my student deals, my freshman year was unsuccessful in giving me any friends. Additionally, I kept comparing myself to my younger classmates. They would graduate before me (age-wise) and start working before me. This made me feel like I had a race to win. Slowly, I kept taking more and more classes to make sure I graduated faster. I even tried to graduate in three semesters instead of four, but my job schedule didn’t allow it. I was so occupied with schoolwork and regular work that for two years I barely had time to take advantage of everything the school offered. I never used the many resources available or joined any club. I spent those years like a ghost.

A normal week in my planner during the semester. During the weekend, my body gave up and I got sick.

It wasn’t until my last semester when I met some students my age in my major that I realized other people were giving themselves the chance to go to school again and that there was no need to race anybody. We met after class during office hours, and I finally felt I had a community. It lasted only four months. Then I graduated, and it was time to transfer to a different campus. Once again, thoughts about finishing my degree as fast as possible came to the surface, and without my friends around, I purposely kept myself busy. I signed up for five literature courses while working two jobs for 32 hours a week, a choice that already felt like a lot. However, I didn’t stop there. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did back in community college, so I was set on using as many resources as possible. I signed up for the internship program at the career center, applied for multiple scholarships, and submitted work for awards. Additionally, I went to office hours, joined a few club meetings, and stayed available for student events. 

When I talk about my spring semester, people often ask me how I did it. How was I able to accomplish so many things? Some assume my GPA paid the price, but it didn’t. Some think I’m just a superhuman, which I am not. The truth is that I had to sacrifice something to have time for all my school-related occurrences. I had to sacrifice multiple things, actually. And I did so without realizing it at first.

My messy desk reflects my inner turmoil and stress.

The first thing I sacrificed was spending time with my loved ones. I had limited time off, which I used to attend school events; thus, dates with my husband and hanging out with my friends were left behind. The second thing I sacrificed was my house chores. We usually divided our time to clean, but my family took over my chores during the semester. Naturally, this brought up some tension in the household. The third thing was my physical health. Before the spring of 2024, I followed a balanced and fulfilling diet, and I would exercise regularly. My tight schedule eliminated the time to cook or move my body, which translated into stomach problems and joint pain. Lastly, the fourth thing I sacrificed was my mental health. I have never had a stellar one, to begin with, but the overload helped only to intensify pre-existing issues—and generate new ones. I had no time to give my mind a break and cope with everything that I was experiencing. I was in a constant state of numbness and inertia that I am just becoming aware of now. Ever since the semester ended, all I can do is sleep for 10 or more hours. I can’t even write as much as I wished to do during the summer break. My mind and body are exhausted. 

Slowly, I am becoming myself again. I am reconnecting with my friends, taking over my house chores once more, returning to better food habits and exercise, and caring for my mental health. More importantly, I am learning about limits. Our culture celebrates overachievers, and it is tempting to always take on a new challenge to prove—to others—that you can do better.  However, prioritizing rest is not a lazy habit. It is a balanced one. What is the point of racing if your body succumbs before the finish line?

Allow yourself to prioritize your wellbeing and relax with this coupon.

By Roxanna Cardenas

Roxanna is a Venezuelan writer living in New York City. Her works include essays, poetry, screenplays, and short stories. She explores fiction and non-fiction genres, with a special interest in horror and sci-fi. She has an A.A. in Writing and Literature and is working on her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration.

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