On Being Back: Part II
So my semester has started. We're well into classes, and I'm mostly enthralled. I have returned to reflecting on what my life is becoming being back here. Naturally I am swamped this semester. And in being swamped, and thinking about all of these things I am doing, I start analyzing my tasks and asking myself a lot of questions.
Let me expand on what it is I'm doing. In Part I of this post, I talked about the Lanes and HLECing, which are both big chunks of what I spend my time working on. (Side note and self-promotion: I do a lot of the Lanes' media so follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, + Facebook!) Additionally, I'm still an America Counts tutor, working with the same student in a local elementary school to hone his critical thinking skills. We also play multiplication basketball. It's a good time. This year I've joined Anti-Frack, the unofficial on-campus group that works among the student body and in the community to combat fracking in Ohio. While I'm still trying to establish what my role is in that group, I'm enjoying getting to see how an elaborate network of very dedicated activists gets work done. I'm also working with Oberlin's Food Justice Project, an off-campus group dedicated to food accessibility in Oberlin.
This semester I'm taking four courses. Environmental Policy with S. Pathak, which is brilliant and I spent all year last year trying to get into this class and now that I am I love it. Economics 101 which I find frustrating and a very limited field, but it's required for Environmental Economics, so I'm just going to bear down and brunt it. Chemistry 101 with Dr. Roswell, a required course for the ENVS major that I am genuinely enjoying. The material is complicated and I am not the best at it, but I still find myself intrigued by the concepts. (A sort-of-side-but-related-note, the Office of Student Academic Services provides tutors that are extremely easy to sign up for and then you have a person that you can meet 1:1 with however frequently you need to for help in courses you're struggling with. They get paid and you get the help you need, so it's a win-win!) Finally, I'm taking Arabic. Language classes at Oberlin meet five days a week, so it's intense and difficult, but it is also rewarding and unbelievable to be learning a new tongue. With all of that laid out, you can see how my course load and my extracurricular commitments are overall overwhelming. This has led to the intense and difficult contemplation of why I am doing all of this.
Being back in Oberlin is weighted. Gone are the careless summer twilights. While this place feels so good and nourishing at times, at others it is a bundle of responsibility and chores. While I love my commitments, sometimes I feel as if I have to choose between participating and taking care of myself. The first half of this semester has been a lot. From training to Orientation Week, and then straight into classes, I have been pushing myself. Running around, on time and in hurry, downing coffee, and urging myself to answer the question, Who am I trying to become and how am I getting there? At Oberlin, we are inundated with opportunities. Honestly, I think it's the greatest sensory overload I will ever experience. Be it ExCo Fair, a myriad of concerts, or having to choose between seeing Toni Morrison or Ngoni Ba, our options are seemingly endless and for that we are so blessed. The drawback is that it becomes easy to let yourself go and hard to rein yourself in for self-care. I think the hardest thing I'm doing is forcing myself to reduce and find the balance between doing good in the world and doing good for me. The temptation to overextend here is tangible, but the challenge of Oberlin has never been in trying to do enough, but rather to not do too much.
In order to give deeply to the things I choose to do, I need to devote attention, time, and intention to them. In order to successfully do that, I need to devote attention, time, and intention to myself. Learning to balance my dedication to activities along with my need to take care of myself is a process, and it's one that I hope brings me closer to answering these questions about myself and my life.
I hope that my answers involve expanding my potential, my understanding, my allyship, and my work to make the world a better place. I am only one person. But if Oberlin has taught me anything, it is to believe that one person can change the world.