July 16, 2012 by Ryann Tanap
A wise friend once told me to find joy in the little things in life. He’s still one of my closest friends and mentors today, and his words continue to hold true. The truth is, we all lead quite busy lives. And if you are part of the William & Mary Tribe, then I’m sure you know how to successfully balance 18 credits, six or more extracurricular activities (with leadership positions in half of them), a part-time job (or two), and a social life, all on only five hours of sleep a night.
Well my friends, it is time that I break it to you bluntly: your time at the College will end soon. Sooner than you think. If you thought four years was plenty of time to try out everything in the book (and then some), you have been mistaken. The truth is, time goes by quickly, and you can get lost in all that you set out to do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t reach for success, but you have to remember that you are only human. There is still plenty of time to save the world, so for now, just hear me out.
For my first couple of years at the College, I tried to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. These expectations were perpetuated by my need to be involved 24/7, and the self-created pressure to compete with my peers (most of whom are valedictorians of their high schools with near-perfect SAT scores). During freshman year of college, I learned that getting a B+ in a class was an accomplishment worth reveling in at W&M. This was one of the easier lessons I had to learn. It was not until junior year at the College that life hit me like a wave, as life has a tendency to do so at unexpected times. I found myself to be juggling more than a handful of academic, social, and personal struggles, and it was not healthy. I rarely had time to take a breath, and found myself constantly studying, stressing out, or worse: both (simultaneously). I’ll spare you the details, but just remember that everyone has their fair share of hardships. Always give others the benefit of the doubt.
After seeking the advice and comfort from friends, mentors, professors, and the Counseling Center, I decided to set a new course for myself. I dropped a few extracurricular activities (if you ever decide to, do not worry because no one will think less of you nor judge you), and considered switching my double major to a major and minor. I sought out new hobbies and activities that could be both therapeutic and constructive.
It’s not that hard to appreciate the little things at W&M; just look around! Beauty can be found anywhere.
Eventually, I started to truly understand what it meant to find and embrace the little things in life. I found myself making time to hit the gym a few times a week, cooking my own meals (which is quite a healthy option for college students), and investing more time in my creativity. I even began to write more often, and started a one-a-day poetry project. I became much more comfortable sharing my work, and found constructive criticism and commentary from friends to be really encouraging that I was doing something positive with my time. I have since found the courage to perform some of my poems as spoken word pieces at open-mic nights at William & Mary, and hope to do so in other venues (the Nuyorican in NYC, anyone?). At press time, my project consists of 390 poems, and is now complete.
So, Tribe, this is my challenge for you now: seek out the little things in life. Find things that can put a smile on your face. Make time to do what you love. Pick up a new hobby, or revisit something you have forgotten. Give yourself some breathing room; you won’t regret it. You can still stay active in the “overachiever culture” that exists at the College, but trust me when I say others will envy you if you know how to make time for yourself. If you can balance your life in college, you’ll certainly be ahead of others once you graduate and enter the real world.