One student’s realization that the balancing act is harder than she thought
Back in April, I wrote a piece in The Concordian about balancing life and school. I emphasized the importance of remembering that you can’t do better than your absolute best. What I was trying to convey could be summed up as the following: 1) make time for your friends and family; 2) don’t forget about hobbies and fitness; 3) don’t forget to work on yourself—take a break when you’re tired, sleep when you need to, take a bath or whatever else. An important final point I made was this: “It’s so utterly important to take a break and give your mind time to recuperate from the constant stress and thinking it does.”
Maybe I was naive or maybe it was because I was in my first year, when everything is arguably much easier than in second year. What I’ve come to realize is this: I’ve since become a hypocrite. I no longer stand by the idea that you can balance your school, work, and social life easily.
This semester, I somehow managed to balance five courses and three jobs, one of which was in retail, which I quit because I got a job as a journalist. Despite this, I’m still extremely worn out; I don’t have an off-button. My work day starts when I wake up, the moment I open my laptop, and it doesn’t end until I go to sleep. One of my jobs is as a research journalist, where I thoroughly research a subject about entertainment and write 3,000 words on it. My other job is a copy editor for this paper, as one of four people who makes sure there are no mistakes and everything follows our writing style. Four of my five classes require extensive writing. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I freelance. I offer to edit my friends’s assignments, and I contribute as a writer to this paper—as I’m doing now, which I really shouldn’t be doing because I have an essay due in a few days that I haven’t started. Yet, here I am.
Some of you may think I’m crazy for taking on all these projects, but I feel like it’s part of millennial journalism culture. Last year, first year journalism students attended conferences where professionals spoke about their careers and the paths leading to where they are now. It seemed like everyone was balancing multiple projects at the same time, be it school and a job, or school and an internship, or all three. I quickly understood that, to succeed in this industry, you have to hop on the train and go full speed ahead.
At the same time, there’s also a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ve been putting myself out there and trying to make connections in order to advance my career, but at what cost? I may be over working and overwhelming myself, with my sanity and personal life taking a considerable hit, but I don’t want to look back on my time and see missed opportunities.
By thinking so much about my future—which, in reality, isn’t so far away—I’ve neglected my own advice. I haven’t had much time for friends or family; I haven’t been active in months; and I’ve been overworking myself to hell. My mom is worried I’m on the edge of a burnout or mental breakdown, but I keep assuring her I’m not—I know it’ll be worth it in the end. While I may be suffering temporarily and am beyond exhausted all the time, I’ve made new friends, written content I’m proud of, managed to stay on top of my classes, and, all in all, I’m living my best life. But I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t acknowledge the sacrifice I now realize it takes to make all this happen.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin