Pushing myself to work faster feels like dry heaving. I need to work on an essay, but nothing comes out. When something does come out, everything gets done incorrectly. Nuanced mistakes begin to liter the pages as I carve out a short three-page essay. The spelling errors, incorrect grammar and gibberish mirror my brain.
When did this become commonplace? Pushing ourselves until we cannot make heads or tails of our thoughts, our productivity takes a steep decline, and our bodies beg for rest. Burning out has almost become a badge of honor. We wear it to show we put our all into something while internally screaming because burnout leads to a halt — a period of time where nothing new comes out and if it does, it is nowhere near our full potential.
I am determined, but easily discouraged because it takes me so long to do anything even before I burn out. A slow work pace lets ideas trickle out with grace. It keeps me sane in the moment. Until I lie in bed at night and my brain starts working against me. Could I have done more? Should I have worked harder? Was it even hard work at all? If it wasn’t hard work, why didn’t I do more? Maybe all of it will be for nothing and that career I’m studying for will not pay off my student loans, car payments, mortgage and that emergency room stay I will need because I stress myself out too much.
As the semester comes to a close, it becomes more necessary to push ourselves. Getting lost in the chaos is like breathing. We don’t even realize it’s happening, it just does. Focusing on the next thing on the to-do list is a surefire way for you to not pay attention to what you are doing currently. In other words, thinking about your Spanish exam Thursday while studying for biology means you can’t possibly take in that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. OK, we already know that by heart, but you get what I mean.
Take a deep breath, the kind you have to think about doing. Do the same when you study, and really study. Take it in. Don’t worry about the future. Prepare for it, but don’t stress yourself out so badly that you skip class because you get overwhelmed. That leads to a larger amount of stress from getting behind and then feeling like you are running out of time.
I always feel like I’m running out of time. I see how others get so much done in a short timespan and feel jealous sometimes. Everything slips right past me until I realize I forgot to do something on my to-do list. Or procrastination calls my name and I come at the drop of a hat. I feel overwhelmed half the time. It sits in my chest like an organ, something vital to give me life. It is life.
Why does the passing of time haunt me? I am only 23. I see many middle-aged students here on campus all the time. They constantly remind me I’m not running out of time, both figuratively and literally. (They are so kind!) In this day and age, the pressure to succeed and be a millionaire in your 20s is plastered all over social media. New influencers pop up every day, but I am no influencer. I am working toward graduating so I can have a regular 9 to 5.
With the stress from end-of-semester projects and finals creeping up, I think about graduating a lot. I worry about what comes next and if I will like it. I wonder if and when the feeling of running out of time will go away. Will it finally stop when I get a “real” job? Or will I just go from one rat race to another?
The doubts take time to change. I don’t know if they ever fully go away, but everyone holds the ability to do what they set their mind on. Comparing yourself to others won’t get you there faster. The competition isn’t other people anyways. The competition is ourselves. Getting better than we were yesterday is how we win the little game of life.