During winter break of my sophomore year, I started to get very anxious. On paper, it did not make sense. I was not struggling academically, I had a fun group of friends that I trusted, I had just been accepted to my first-choice abroad program, and I already had an internship set up for the summer.
Sure, I could have done better in Spanish 212, and I was meeting none of my goals in the gym, but these were petty issues that were certainly not responsible for the overwhelming malaise I was feeling, one that I had previously never experienced.
I am fortunate to be from Los Angeles, where even in early January it is not unreasonable for the thermometer to reach the low 70s. LA is also home to dozens of beautiful hiking trails dotting the Santa Barbara and San Gabriel mountains. Balmy winter days are perhaps my favorite to enjoy the Southern California wilderness. The weather was particularly perfect one afternoon, a few days before I had to head back to North Carolina for the second half of my sophomore year, and I decided to take my two goldendoodles, Diego and Olivia, on a hike. It was on this hike that I discovered the root of my angst: when I had come to Wake Forest, there were so many clubs I had wanted to join, so many speakers I had wanted to see, and so much I had just generally wanted to do.
Yet, I felt like I had blinked, three semesters had gone by, and I had done little outside of the classroom besides pledge a fraternity and write some articles for the paper. Wake Forest, this beautiful institution that we pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend, was affording me a seemingly endless number of opportunities, all of which I was squandering. I made a commitment to myself that afternoon that I would get out and engage more. I would see out each and every goal I had set for myself at the beginning of freshman year.
Fast forward a month into the semester and I had become the sports editor for the paper (completely by luck, as the other sports editor quit, and I was the only person willing to take the job), I was attending more speaking engagements hosted by the university, and my friend Sam and I were hosting a radio show on Sunday afternoons. My schedule was more full and I was feeling adequately fulfilled.
Yet, when I arrived as a wide-eyed freshman I had so many more plans. I thought I would join Student Government, the club golf team, the club water ski team, and I would also be a President’s Aide. I’m quite sure there were even more things I wanted to do, I just don’t remember all of them, because most of the plans were half-baked and fleeting. In retrospect, as a hardened senior, I can attest to the fact that this is an outrageous laundry list of goals to achieve in only four years.
But perhaps there are some freshmen who have similar delusions of grandeur. To these students, and others who may feel unfulfilled, there is a lesson to be taken from my mid-college crisis.
That is, you can only commit to so much, but to what you commit, you had better do as well as you can. The second half of my sophomore year I did little more to engage on campus than take a bigger position at the paper and work a couple hours a week at the radio.
Yet I was also finding myself committing more fully to all of my work and taking pride in everything I set out to achieve.
Coming to the realization that if I put my full effort into the handful of activities in which I do choose to participate, I can be a much happier and more fulfilled person without halfheartedly overextending myself has drastically improved my undergraduate experience. It is certainly the advice I wish I heard in the fall of 2015.