The Oberlin Stories Project

On finding balance

Sarel Loewus ’16

“What I didn’t realize at the time was that it is possible to have multiple priorities, and I could put my full effort into each of them.”

A team of runners arm in arm.

Anxiety filled me as I sat in the athletic conference room across from my two cross-country coaches a few weeks after the end of my first collegiate cross-country season. Emotionally I tried to explain to them why I couldn’t be a varsity athlete on the cross-country and track teams and simultaneously put as much time into my classes as I wanted to. I wanted to quit the team.

Both my coaches could see how stressed I was and they didn’t pressure me into changing my mind. Instead they simply gave me several pieces of advice that not only ended up convincing me to return to the team two weeks later, but also facilitated a lot of the personal growth that I have experienced at Oberlin since my first year. My coaches stressed the importance of having multiple priorities, gaining perspective on personal successes and failures, and maintaining balance.

Fueled by my motivations to learn as much as possible from my classes and, of course, do well in them, I had made schoolwork my top priority as soon as I got to Oberlin. The more invested I became in academics, the more stressed I became about doing well on exams, papers, and projects. Soon I convinced myself that in order to accomplish my ambitions in academics, I had to leave behind my other passions such as running. That’s when I considered quitting the cross-country and track teams during my first year. However, luckily for me, the advice my coaches gave me, combined with the advice faculty members, friends at Oberlin, and my family have imparted and still continue to impart to me, has introduced me to the concepts of perspective, priority, and balance.

I used to view every bad grade that I received on exams as the end of the world. Even if I knew I had studied as hard as I could for the exam, a bad grade made that irrelevant in my mind. To me it only meant that I needed to work even harder or that I just wasn’t smart enough to understand the material. I had the same mentality towards running. When I didn’t accomplish any of my goals during my first cross-country season I became discouraged, and I began to believe that I would never reach my expectations. However, during my time at Oberlin, I have learned that I cannot view success and failure as absolutes—that I should instead view them in terms of growth and learning.

Upon starting at Oberlin, I also convinced myself that I had to make school my number one priority in order to gain the most from my education. This mentality put running, friendships, and family in the backseat as I tried to stay on top of my coursework. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it is possible to have multiple priorities, and I could put my full effort into each of them. In fact, I’ve learned that having multiple priorities is better because it leads to balance. Running on the team makes me a better student. It gives me something completely different to focus my energy on each day. Likewise spending time with my friends gives me a much needed release at the end of a long day or week so that I can come back later and approach my running or schoolwork with a fresh mind.

Yes, I still spend a lot of time studying in the Science Center. School is still my priority. However, I also spend a lot of time running and hanging out with friends because those are also my priorities. Finding a balance has been, and will always be, challenging, but thankfully I have two more years to continue figuring it out.