A Restless College Student Struggles to be Present

Lately two words have been stuck inside my head, refusing to leave.

“I wish.”

It’s human nature to think about all of the things that could have been accomplished or that could have been experienced.

Like many college students, especially those graduating this May, I can’t help but think of all the things I didn’t do.

I wish I’d joined more clubs that don’t specifically relate to my major. I wish I hadn’t wasted so many nights wasted. I wish I’d developed a more diverse group of friends with different interests. I wish I’d taken more electives like psychology or women’s studies.

I wish I’d explored more of the surrounding area by my university. I wish I’d gotten to know more of my professors. I wish I’d devoted more time, effort and energy to the clubs I was involved in. I wish I’d actually done some of the required readings.

I wish I’d listened more and talked less. I wish I’d spent more time focusing on practicing yoga. I wish I’d memorized the AP Style textbook. I wish I didn’t do things just to post them on social media. I wish I’d devoted more time to studying issues I strongly advocate for. I wish I’d been more involved with student government. I wish I’d read more.

I wish I’d had more time.

It all boils down to time. If I’d had more time, I could have easily accomplished all of my wishes and then some. If I’d had more time, I wouldn’t regret the things I couldn’t accomplish.

Too often I find myself wishing time away. I wish it would be summer vacation already so I don’t have to study. I wish it would be fall semester already so I could be in Paris. I wish I was 30 years old so that I could have an apartment in New York City and a “big girl job.”

My life is so focused around wishing for what I want to do and wishing for time to do what I didn’t do. Missed opportunities and future endeavors cloud my thoughts daily. I don’t focus enough on the present or making the most of the time I am given.

So my goal for the rest of the semester, this summer at my internship and during my time abroad is to stop wishing, stop regretting, stop planning. I want to learn how to live in the moment and how to live it for myself, not for my Instagram account.

I want to learn how to be, not think about what I could become or what I could have been.

 

 

The End-of-Semester Slump

It’s that point in the semester – I want to give up.

I want to lay in my bed with the lights out in my dark grey sweatpants and mindlessly binge-watch Netflix until my eyes start to hurt.

I have to give myself a pep talk every morning to get out of bed for class. “Only four more weeks left,” I remind myself.

Like many other college students, by the end of spring semester I can feel the stress and exhaustion of the entire school year pressing down on my chest like a weight.

Assignments, chores and tension all start building up the closer May gets.

Meanwhile, my motivation spirals and so does my mood. The smallest comments, accusations or questions invoke a full-blown meltdown. The smallest problems become difficult to manage.

I start to slack on basic assignments and I’m rewarded a lower-than-usual grade because of my obvious lack of effort. The lower the grade, the higher my stress level.

I start to slack on maintaining friendships and I’m rewarded with arguments and aggression. The more arguments, the higher my stress level.

I start to slack on maintaining a healthy diet and workout routine and I’m rewarded with weight gain. The more weight gain, the higher my stress level.

By the middle of April, I’m so mentally exhausted from beating myself up and feeling stressed out that I become hollow. I attend classes, I speak with friends and professors and I go to work, but mentally, I’m not there.

I let my laundry build up in the corner of my room, I stop taking the time to make dinner every night and a frown permanently settles on my face.

The end-of-the-semester slump sets in and I take to my bed, hiding from responsibilities. Four more weeks.

 

When Sleepless Nights Become an Accomplishment

Like many other college students, I’ve occasionally stayed at the library so long that I’ve fallen asleep on top of my books and notecards.

I’ve “pulled an all-nighter” to finish an assignment or to study for an exam I didn’t properly prepare for.

I’ve gone out to the bars and stayed until close and then stayed up an extra hour after that eating pizza and engaging in drunken shenanigans with my friends.

And then the morning comes.

The alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. and you groan, desperately trying to quiet the obnoxious noise. You lay in bed for an extra 5 minutes contemplating if going to the gym/work/class is really that important.

Finally you get up. You make a cup of coffee – and then another. You dress in a zombie state of mind and drag yourself to your destination.

Eventually, you perk up little by little and proceed to tell everyone you only got 5 hours of sleep last night.

“I was up studying all night for that exam.” “I woke up so early to workout this morning.” “I stayed late at the office last night to get some extra work done.”

Society values sleepless nights. Staying late at the office is a sign of dedication. Sometimes I respect or envy someone that stayed up late studying for an exam more so than I respect myself for falling asleep at 9 p.m.

Pulling an all nighter is like being accepted into this cool, exclusive club of over-achievers. Staying late at work proves motivation to a boss. Waking up aggressively early proves effective time management. Being the last student to walk out of the library feels like an accomplishment.

Why does sleeplessness signify more respected values than a good night’s sleep? Why do I feel more accomplished the bigger the bags under my eyes grow?