That Silver Lining

January 7th, 2015

Well, I guess my plan to keep up with this journal didn’t go quite as expected.

Let’s just get right to it; 3 lessons that I learned this crazy semester. Before I lose the urge to write again.

I think the worst thing about this semester was also the greatest learning experience. When you frequently miss meals and find yourself questioning why you bother to pay rent when you’re hardly ever at your apartment, it really starts to hit you that maybe, just maybe, you can’t do everything. Pft, I know right? “Can’t do everything” Ha, good one! Oh, what? You don’t actually think you can do everything? You’re only doing the bare minimum, you say?

I realized this semester that there are at least two kinds of crazy to describe the people that are too busy for their own good. The first is for those who truly believe they can do everything. They sign up for everything that their body can handle, if not more, and acknowledge whatever it is that they’re doing. Fine, you want to be busy, good on you; keep doing what you’re doing, just don’t hurt yourself. The second is the kind of crazy that takes on a lot, but still feels like they are, at best, doing the bare minimum. Similar to the first set of people; they will sign up for things, be involved and commit beyond what they’re actually capable of, but what sets them apart is that they’re either unable to recognize or unable to accept just how much they put in. These delusional people are the type that will continue to try and do as much as they feel their body can handle, pushing it to it’s limits, when in reality their body has already shut down. I fall into this second category.

While no where near as dramatic, it finally hit me this semester just how in over my head I was. Now I’ll be honest, I truly did not do much. I was taking only 14 hours, I did not have a job and I was involved in one student organization. My biggest problem this year was not properly preparing for the shift in workload. Despite being only 14 hours, I struggled. The course I signed up for is said to be the toughest class in the degree program, and while it was something I expected I definitely was not prepared for the massive time sink that was CS 439. In my previous classes I could finish projects within a couple of days, but for this one sometimes I spent an entire week with a team and still did not make any progress. The other classes ended up being rather difficult for me as well, but in hindsight it was probably because I neglected studying for the other classes because my main focus was that behemoth. And then the one student organization.

For the first couple years that I was involved in this organization my academic schedule was rather lax; I was able to keep up just fine so I always tried to commit 100%. I attended as many events as I possibly could and helped whenever people were willing to accept it. For no reason, really. Prior to college I didn’t have much to work for (besides UIL) and I wanted to change that. Liked the organization, liked the people, why not? I had the honor of being elected as vice-president of the student organization this year so that means I am one of eight officers. As officers we are leaders of the organization and are thus responsible for maintaining it. We also have the responsibility of overseeing a group of “directors”, leaders of the organization in their own right, but basically anointed members who help us officers make the organization what it is. This is where the problem started and so, without further ado:

Lesson 1: Letting Go (cue Frozen soundtrack)

It was great being able to be as involved as I wanted the first couple years, but boy was that shut down this year. Coming into this semester as an officer I was determined to be there for my directors. I wanted to get to know each and every one of them and to be someone they could come to if they had any troubles, whether it be related to the organization or not. To make them feel at home, just as my past two officers did for me when I was a director. I wanted to personally make sure that, if they got nothing else, my directors would be able to walk away from the organization feeling confident about their abilities to pursue whatever it is that they want to pursue. I quickly realized that I was lucky if I even had time to debrief them on their responsibilities, much less actually walk through how to do everything. Coming into this year I had plenty of warnings. Countless members of the organization, past officers, returning directors and even alumni cautioned me to pull back the year prior. I knew it was something I needed to work on. I kind of built my schedule, purposely taking the tough class, to help teach myself that lesson; I expected to be busy enough to not be able to be that involved, but when it actually happened … it was hard. See, it’s not that I felt like I needed to be there, I knew things wouldn’t crash and burn if I wasn’t there for the organization 24/7. I simply wanted to be there 24/7. I wanted to not only help build and maintain what I’ve come to see as my second home, but to also share in the fun. For members to become directors they first had to go through an application process that included an interview. I knew all my directors were competent, I knew they were hard workers; there’s no reason for me to need to be actively involved, but I want to be. I wanted to get to know my directors. Really get to know the people that I was working with to maintain this organization. And not just my directors, but all of the directors. Heck, all of the members. Ideally, every single person within the organization. Although, being the introvert I am, even if I had the time I probably wouldn’t talk to anywhere near that many people, but I would have liked to slowly get to know as many of my extended family as possible.

But obviously none of that was possible. It wasn’t until I had a couple talks with our president that I was able to start pulling back. I wasn’t doing much to begin with this semester, but even not much turned out to be too much considering my coursework. So that’s where the first lesson finally comes in. It’s not something I’ve fully accepted, but I am slowly coming to terms with it. I just have to go back to the introvert ways of being involved, by listening to others’ stories. If the end goal is for members of the organization is to enjoy themselves, to have a home and to walk away as more capable individuals, it shouldn’t matter whether I see that or not, just as long as I know it’s happening. Right?

Lesson 2: Maintaining Friendships

Ah, the lost art of maintaining friendships. This is probably the lesson I am most grateful for at the moment. While I can by no means say that I put in a great amount of effort to maintain friendships, even now, I do feel I’ve put in more this semester alone than I have in the past decade combined. As the “anti-social” kid, I wasn’t exactly known for reaching out to others to schedule hangouts, or even just to talk. I actually realized long ago just how fortunate I am to even have one person to call a friend, much less several who are close friends, considering how little effort I actually put into these friendships. I won’t go into the details of just how terrible of a person I am when it comes to not reaching out to others, but trust me when I say I should not have any friends. People are truly just too kind, and for that I am grateful.

So, the unexpected lesson of this semester. The way things usually worked was that my friends at the university would invite me out to things, I would almost always say yes because my schedule was either open or completely flexible and life would go on. This year though, I realized people can only try and schedule things with you so many times before they get tired of being rejected or start to think that you just don’t want to hang out. The only solution then was for me to start making an effort in scheduling time for my friends. I started taking more of an initiative to schedule hangouts, made my schedule much more transparent and just started the scheduling by listing out exactly what times I could guarantee that I would be free, and messaged those that I couldn’t hangout with in person and just catching up with them via chat.

Don’t get me wrong. I always have and still do cherish all of my friends greatly, not taking the initiative to maintain friendships has always been an introvert and low-self-esteem thing as opposed to not caring enough to put in the effort or anything like that. It wasn’t until this semester though that I realized just how much some of those friends meant to me, and what exactly it meant to show that to them.

Lesson 3: Fitness as a Lifestyle

Alright so this is the one that makes me want to facepalm the most. Prior to going back to college I was so gungho about having a workout regimen going, finally getting used to running, yadda yadda, school starts and I don’t go to the gym even once. At the end of the day, I felt like my body was still functioning properly, I still had the strength to help others, and I was constantly tired … many things were at the top of my list, albeit some should have been higher like sleep, but working out was definitely not up there. But I couldn’t just let me body rot while my brain was being overclocked the entire semester so I just started making my daily routine a workout.

Cardio was probably the easiest one. My biggest motivator for walking and running over the summer break was to build up to living off-campus, and thus walking to and from campus everyday. I am happy to say that I was properly prepared, maybe even over-prepared. The daily walk usually didn’t feel like enough so I decided to just walk everywhere instead of taking the bus. I probably take twice as long to buy groceries than I would have just taking the bus, but walking serves several purposes so justified. The miles easily added up. It was great; if nothing else, I wasn’t being a total bum this semester.

After a while I also started walking my laundry to the laundromat. This one I’m less excited about. The original plan was to go with my roommate whenever he did laundry … suffice to say our schedules didn’t allow for such wishful thinking. We were hardly in the apartment at the same time, much less around long enough to do laundry together. He of course always offered to go on my time, but I always felt bad bothering him. So the next logical step, walking the laundry myself. Almost a mile? It definitely helped to keep my arms from reverting back to completely useless sticks, but boy did it suck carrying that basket of clothes. After doing this a couple times though I just accepted it; made for a decent substitute workout. On days where I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge I just put some of my clothing into an old backpack and just backpacked there for emergency cleaning. One of my fellow officers within the organization offered his place to do laundry so the couple of times we drove to his place, I brought my laundry along … definitely can’t thank him enough for that.

So that’s how I managed to make this semester work in terms of physical activity. Definitely not the workout routine I had in mind, but I’m kind of glad things worked out the way it did. I’ve always touted for more natural ways of doing things so incorporating physical activity into my daily routine instead of setting out a separate time for the gym seemed fitting.


One of these days I’ll finally want to go back and read these posts … I’ll probably beat myself up for making each one a long-winded novel.

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