I've accepted that I'm drowning in a sea of over-involvement

By Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief

Try everything in college. Take the job. Build that resume. Be a student leader.  It will be a great opportunity to make connections, gain experience, and help people out.

That is the common wisdom most students hear when they come to Newman, and it is well-intentioned, I’m sure.

After all, we attend a university that is all about service and giving. What better way to show your appreciation for opportunities you’ve been given than by seizing every last one of them that comes your way?

In most cases, seizing opportunities and stepping up to be a leader are often admirable and character-building endeavors, and I would never want to discourage another student from reaching their full potential as a student leader.

But there’s another side of the coin that I think needs to be addressed here at Newman.

I’m talking about over-involvement. For many students here, I feel that over-involvement  is very real, and I know that, in my own personal case, I seriously underestimated the toll it could take on my mental health.

So let me tell you a little bit about how my senior year has been so far.

On a typical day, I wake up in the morning, go to my Student Government office hour, attend two hours of class, then go to a meeting, then go to a three hour class, then maybe do a newspaper interview, then do my Residence Life Office hours. On Wednesdays, sometimes I do not have time to sit down and eat lunch.

Sounds like a pretty standard, full 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. day, right?

Except after 5 p.m., it is either my RA duty night, which means I need to patrol the halls consistently until midnight, or it is my Vantage editing night, which means I need to stay up until about 2 a.m. editing stories, drawing cartoons, laying out the paper, etc. And all of this does not include any of the homework I have to make time for with the 18 hours of classes I am currently taking. Then I wake up at 7 a.m. and try to start everything over again.

This may sound like I am bragging, but I promise, that is not what I am trying to do. I am not an anomaly either. I can think of at least 5 to 10 other students who probably have a similar looking schedule.

It can seem impressive at first. Some people may read the stuff I just listed and think “Wow, it’s cool that she does so many things,” because those were the exact same things I thought of the student leaders I read about when I was a freshman, and I thought I wanted to be that too.

But I’m not necessarily “doing it all”- or, at least, I know I am not doing it all as well as I could be.

To be frank, I’m burnt out.

I find myself forgetting important things, getting too little sleep, and going a bit mad when I’m alone in my apartment at night feeling trapped beneath 10 work text messages, 15 emails and a paper I still have to do.

It has also been hard for me to find time to just be Courtney, because I feel like something is always “on.” When I’m not “Courtney the Vantage Editor,” I’m “Courtney the RA,” or “Courtney the SGA Treasurer,” or something else. Friendly conversations, even the ones I have over weekends, often revolve around work, and genuine relationships where school politics do not play a factor can feel hard to find.

While there are some things I do that I am glad I agreed to do, there are also some things I said yes to that have me biting off more than I can chew. It’s my senior year, and I am finding it difficult to enjoy my last year of college for what it is because I feel so overwhelmed.

As cliche as it sounds, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.

And as tempting as it is to let the situation anger me, the only person I have to blame is myself. I should have learned to say no sooner. I should have been more realistic with myself and the time that I had. No one can do everything.

I am figuring out that it can be more rewarding in the long run to do a few things really well, than do a million things and just achieve the bare minimum.

So consider this my senior warning to any underclassmen who may start finding opportunities, jobs, and student leadership offers knocking on their door. Embrace what you can do, but never feel like you are obligated to say yes. You might be tempted to be generous with your time and to please the person asking for your help, but be reasonable with your expectations of yourself. You may have to make some tough choices. But trust me, your future self will thank you.

If you are like me already, and you feel like you’re hopelessly trapped in a whirlpool of obligations that you’ve created for yourself, know that you are not alone. Know that things can get better, and that one day you can finally be free.

In the meantime, I have been able to cope in small ways by taking deep breaths when I need it, letting off some steam with mentor figures I trust, and cooking up a storm in my kitchen in between papers. I would encourage anyone also struggling with over-involvement to find time to do the same.

PHOTO: Leanne Vastbinder, Opinions and Online Editor