As I begin my third year at Oberlin (wow!), I’ve been thinking a lot about balance. More specifically, about how to balance everything in an increasingly busy schedule, and how my approach to balancing my life in college has stayed the same and shifted since I started college.
To put this in context, Oberlin definitely has a ‘busy culture.’ By this, I mean many students regularly feel pressure to take on a lot of commitments. I won’t lie—I also feel this pressure, and my busy schedule right now is driven in some small part by a feeling that I need to be doing a lot. This is not great, as it can lead to burnout and feeling overwhelmed.
However, I do think that considering how I balance all of my commitments has helped me manage my time better and make sure that I don’t take on more than I think I can handle. Self-reflecting and considering what I’m truly passionate about has also helped a lot.
Other than my student blogging job, I have two jobs that take up the majority of my time: working as a Course Writing Associate (CWA) and as a Student Assistant in the Archives. Both jobs require a time commitment of about 6-8 hours/week, which means that I really have to balance how much time I have in each day to schedule CWA appointments and work in the Archives with other commitments like schoolwork, field hockey, clubs, and being in a co-op (side note: this is also my first semester in a co-op, yay!). Being passionate about these jobs, as well as my student blogging job, helps me stay engaged in the work I do and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
I also think that a growing sense of my own capacity and interest in commitments over my two years at Oberlin have helped me realize when I need to step back from other work for a while—for example, I’ve stopped being a peer tutor for at least this semester since I decided that 1) I had too many other commitments and I wouldn’t have been able to put my whole effort into the job and 2) I should maintain the commitments I’m most passionate about right now. This was a hard decision for me—two years ago when I started Oberlin, I’m not sure that I would have turned down another commitment even if I sensed I wouldn’t have been able to put my all into it. Now, I have a much stronger sense of what I want to devote my energy to and what I need to put aside, at least for a while.
Being a student-athlete is another one of my largest commitments this semester. It’s definitely been an adjustment to have a 2021 season after not having a season since my very first semester of college—during which I had much less work and other commitments than I do now! Playing a sport in college, even at a DIII school like Oberlin, requires a lot of time management—I have to consider the fact that I have much less time to complete assignments and other work during season, as 2-hour practices every day, traveling to games, and games themselves all take up a large amount of time. In addition to doing work on the way to games, I try to make sure that I’m ahead on big assignments (like essays) that are due around the same time as games so I won’t be too stressed. And, as I mentioned earlier, being passionate about my commitments helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed and burning out. On good days, field hockey helps me relax more than it stresses me out—I don’t have to think about classwork, on-campus jobs, or other things when I’m playing.
While I have a few other commitments, and, of course, all the work entailed in taking college classes, I am passionate about all of them, which is why I continue to do them. And even though I’m halfway through my college career, I’m still finding new joys and communities—like being in a co-op (Pyle) for the first time, and starting my job at the Archives. Overall, so far in my time at Oberlin, I’m learning that while having a busy schedule is sometimes overwhelming, self-reflection and making sure that I still want to commit to the things I’m doing help me manage and enjoy my time here.