Typically, I am one who is slow to give advice — and even slower to take it. But if there is one thing that I wish I knew when I was a freshman, it is this: you cannot be afraid to say “no.”
To say “no” to pressure, to say “no” to not getting the appropriate amount of sleep and to say “no” to advice (when unwarranted) is to trust yourself in all your abilities.
You might struggle to say “no” because shutting out others, literally and figuratively, is a hard thing to do, especially when for the first time in your life you will be constantly surrounded by people the same age as you during all hours of the day . I still struggle to do this as a senior. However, entrusting yourself with your precious time and energy, rather than constantly outsourcing it to others, may ultimately help you work and live better at college.
Without dismissing the stress and rigor that high school level-courses and preparing for college brought, many of us would say that the collegiate-level schoolwork and atmosphere blows previous sources of pressure and anxiety out of the water. But I’m not talking about pressure inside the classroom. In my experience, I would leave a day of high school classes far more tired than I do from a day of college lectures. It is what you do in your unorganized time in college that tires you most.
Personally, what wears me down the most is feeling like I never do anything for myself and that I only do things in order to be productive in class or in my on-campus job and clubs. The balance of laundry, homework, eating, sleeping and hanging out with friends is one of the most difficult changes to get used to and can leave you feeling like you have no “me time.”
Extending this further, there is a contradiction that plays out on this campus. It’s that we have so many great facilities and programs for unorganized time, such as Campus Recreation and Outdoor Pursuits, but a student body with no “time” to use them. Most Wake Forest students are involved in at least one extracurricular and spends the rest of their “free time” studying for their challenging courses. This leaves little time to engage in other activities.
When students cannot say “no” to the pressure of always being productive, in their work and in their play, then their time becomes truly less productive. I am emphasizing the dangers of college, like substance abuse and cutting classes, which can be tempting when you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of productivity.
Yet don’t let this advice scare you. It’s taken me four years to learn this and I’m still figuring it out.
This is not to disregard the fact that your time at Wake Forest will also be the most freeing experience of your life. It will be one where you spend time refining your skills and cultivating a different way of seeing the world. But these things take time and trust. Time to pursue them and trust in yourself that, by saying “no,” others will only gain more respect for the person you will become.
In the past four years as a Wake Forest student, I have seen many people walk around robotically in the pursuit of being productive or in an attempt to escape from the pressure of productivity.
I hope that when you become a senior you may see a different kind of student, one who is not robotic, but rather more fully human, pursuing their interests and potential.