By: Connor Lock
When trying to figure out how best to balance my social life, work life, and academic life at a competitive and rigorous university, the first problem is in accepting that life will be fundamentally different than the way it used to be. As Brian Dumaine suggests in his recent piece in Fortune Magazine Why there is no such thing as work-life balance, the key is to find, support, and further your passion and life’s work through all your activities. This is accomplished by not trying to balance the “fun” aspects of life against the “work” aspects, but rather to find the balance in how all aspects connect and support each other. Once the benefits of any activity, no matter how distasteful, become clear, the distinction between work and play becomes blurred.
It is this process that is extremely hard to nail down – and that people try their whole lives to nail down – which can feel incredibly uncomfortable as it quite literally transforms one’s life day in and day out.
The never-ending crunch: learn to live with it instead of around it
In my experience at Georgetown University, trying to maintain a cum laude GPA while playing club ultimate frisbee and working 14 hours a week as an office assistant is not the easiest schedule, nor does it allow for much sleep. This load leads to regular late nights at the library, study groups meeting past midnight, and even taking nighttime classes and closing shifts at work. But the key approach I’ve identified is to find the gaps in the schedule, to work efficiently at my job so as to have down-time for my thoughts or, if need be, to study. Even with this never-ending crunch, I find the time to do even more things that I love, like co-chairing Georgetown’s economic policy think tank, playing intramural basketball and football, and watching every Georgetown basketball home game from the front row.
Remember the big picture…it’s not all about a test score
I have found perspective in the things that I do. I know their relative importance to my peace of mind, now and in the future, and I reconcile potential failures with potential successes. In the words of my ultimate frisbee coach, “Are you really going to remember that one test you failed? Or are you going to remember winning sectionals, doing the best our team has ever done?” This really embodies the spirit I strive for throughout college, where the whole person, the cura personalis if you will, is more important than simple GPA or internships or fun weekend nights.
But even with the most carefully managed schedule, with regular breaks during the day and at night, and with people to vent to and decompress with, sometimes there is something lacking. In my experience, keeping life goals in sight by taking a biweekly walk to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, though for others any holy or especially significant place will do, can really help me center myself. I think of what I want to accomplish, how I see myself, and lastly reflect on how my recent actions have furthered those goals. This is really the crux of my balancing act between academics, work, and social life.
From my experience to the experiences of others there will naturally be disconnects, but there will also be relativity. Therefore, if I could impart one piece of advice from an extremely turbulent three semesters in college, it would be to orient oneself entirely toward what you are passionate about, toward what sparks a genuine interest within you, and to take advantage of whatever opportunities you can within that vein.
Life changes during this time, so take advantage of what opportunities you have, but realize that prioritizing and balance are key to success.