Hey there, my wonderful friends! It's midterm season and...well, I'm super sick. I got a cold because I didn't listen to my body and I overworked myself, and guess what - I can't do any work now!
I don't promise that this post will be perfectly-written, but that's actually part of the reason why I'm writing it: to remind myself that it doesn't need to be, and neither do I. Read on for what is hopefully a dose of self-care and recognition that you need. I love you!
At university, there is an enormously toxic culture of overworking oneself past what was thought before to be humanly possible. During midterms season, it's not hard to browse through social media and see how prevalent it truly is. Pictures of stacks of empty coffee cups, Instagram stories of laptops showing timestamps of 4am, and endless posts of people saying how long and how hard they are working for their apparent eight billion tests, assignments, presentations, and essays. (I have more than once engaged in this narrative. I'm not proud of it.)
The truth is, school is crazy hard. It's so much pressure. You constantly are faced with more work than you're ever going to finish, and all of your professors believe that their class is the only one you have. And so, as students, it's scary! Because during university, it sometimes feels like your schoolwork is the only thing in the world that matters. Forget exercise, socializing, or even taking twenty minutes to do yoga. At any given moment that you're not studying, you feel guilty. And even when you're studying, you feel guilty that you're not doing something else, such as spending time with friends, eating something healthy, or even sleeping - which none of us get enough of.
This guilt has certainly been part of the reason for the lull in my Ethigirl posts as of late. I put a ton of work and research and creativity into everything I post, and I will not post unless I feel it's as perfect as possible. I simply want to create the best content I can. But lately, I just have not been putting the time into creating aforementioned content, because even though I've been overwhelmed with new ideas, every time I sit down to write, I am faced with the feeling that my blog is not my priority.
And while school is certainly important - especially when one looks at its dollar amount - it's not everything. For these four (or five, or more!) years that we are all here, we cannot and should not put 100% of our efforts into studying and academics. This is impossible and unhealthy and incredibly unsustainable. Not only does it take all the joy out of learning by imposing an enormous amount of pressure and competition on a student, but it also inevitably ends in burnout.
What is burnout? It's when you give and give and give everything you have (mentally, physically, and emotionally) to something until it eventually makes you crash. It's bound to happen to us all from time to time, and I am personally dealing with it right now. Incredibly late nights of studying, along with balancing volunteering and extracurriculars, have resulted in me getting sick and being more exhausted than I've been in awhile.
This is frustrating, because although my energy has reduced largely, my motivation and need to do so much all the time hasn't, which has simply resulted in more guilt that I'm not getting done what I need to get done.
But we need to try and prevent burnout as much as possible. We need to think to ourselves - why do I feel so much pressure? Life continues on. I will finish everything and I won't fail out of school. My extracurricular groups, friends, and family will not ostracize me for taking time off. Instead, they will help me. And they have been.
The thing is, I'm certainly not unhappy. I love school and am so passionate about everything that I am putting my time into. I have been feeling an unmatched amount of purpose lately with all the things and people in my life, which has in turn been giving me a perpetual amount of motivation to work on it all. I have so many hopes and dreams and goals for my life and I feel like the gears in my head are constantly turning. Sometimes, I literally jolt awake as I've almost fallen asleep with the need to write down an idea in my phone so I won't forget it.
All of this energy is so, so incredible and something I've been after for as long as I can remember. However, it's resulted in me forgetting the ability to take care of myself as a person. I have to remind myself to eat and to sleep. I talk often with others about fighting against university's romanticism of overworking, and how students sometimes compete with each other when talking about how many hours of sleep they got the night before. However, I myself participate in these types of conversations and just this culture in general far too often.
It's so easy to get sucked into, especially when everyone around you is also engaging. You just feel like it's the right thing to do and that you are actually obligated to engage if you want to get all your studying done - and that doesn't even include extracurriculars or exercise!
If I am being honest, I have not yet figured out the solution completely to balancing my life. It's not one of my strengths. But I try to do my best to always get eight hours of sleep at night, to go outside and take a walk to clear my head, and to take productive breaks while I study. Finally, I always remember that it's okay to be kind to myself and do something I enjoy - like work on Ethigirl.
There is nothing wrong with prioritizing the things that bring you joy. We can and we will figure out how to finish things that are difficult. Let's just remember to reward ourselves, too, for even trying to begin with.We are always working harder than we give ourselves credit for.
University is hard - you really never have a break. So I challenge you to take a guilt-free break during this midterm season. I just had mine by writing this post, and I promise you, I'm glad I did it. :) Sending all my love to students, professionals, and everyone else alike. Remember to check in with those around you.
With love and sustainability (in studying),