I’ve had a really, really hard time getting into this semester.
It’s super ironic, because last spring I wrote a blog about how I was craving change and breaking out of routine and that it felt great. But my emotions have flip-flopped, and here’s a blog with the opposite issue. I’m trying to settle into change.
I haven’t been able to ease into a routine or get into my groove. I’ve found myself checking my classes’ room number a month into the semester, and haven’t found a perfect path from class to class until, well, a week ago. I haven’t organized my Word Documents by class yet, I haven’t set up a good routine for keeping track of assignments. I feel like I’m still fumbling through the first week of classes, but I’ve already had midterms.
I’ve experienced a lot of change this year. Some good, some bad, but it’s definitely impacted my ability to get into the swing of things. Just when I begin to find footing—WHAM—I get smacked in the face by news of some sort. It’s fine, I adjust, but things are always being shaken up. I’m on top of things (somehow), but I just don’t feel the same sense of schedule that I did my last two semesters.
Some people feel bored and unchallenged and too into routine, which can be equally as frustrating. But right now, I find myself still referring to the semester as if it just started, whereas it’s actually drawing to a close (that’s scary). It’s definitely because of the changes I’ve experienced—which is okay, but I’ve readjusted the way I tackle life.
So, for those of you who feel uneasy and haven’t really quite yet hit your stride…
Be Gentle with yourself After experiencing one of those drastic changes I mysteriously alluded to before, I was shaken. I felt like my whole ebb and flow had been interrupted and I wasn’t sure how to master my everyday life. Little, daily issues felt like huge challenges and I was fighting to just get through each day without having an existential crisis. My best friend from home, though, in her infinite wisdom presented me with some of the best advice I’ve ever received: be gentle with yourself. I learned to relax and not beat myself up for not being on my A game at every waking moment. I learned to take a step back and focus on the things I was able to accomplish. I learned to reward myself, not criticize myself. And I’ve learned to apply the same to the way I handle the semester. It’s okay if I just cannot write a paper right this second. It’s okay if I need to take a nap. It’s okay if I decide that downing an entire box of Cheez-Its is a good way to spend an afternoon. I’m holding myself to crazy standards still, but being gentle with myself when I fall short.
Eliminate the stressors I recently discovered that drinking coffee is pretty much the worst thing I can do to myself. Coffee’s always bothered me a bit, but I always presented excuses: “Oh, I’m just dehydrated;” “Oh, I’m just small, the caffeine gets to me;” “I’m lactose intolerant—soy milk is the answer!” I realized that for whatever reason, coffee doesn’t like me. It’s a forbidden romance, but I am not falling prey to the starcrossed lovers cliché. I removed coffee from my life, and I realized that I feel so much more happy and healthy. I’m not jittery or anxious or nauseous with every sip of a delicious steaming latte. Coffee is a bit of a trivial example, but it’s really helped me to settle into a routine when I’m not stressing about the way it makes me feel. Get rid of the yucky, stressful things in your life, and allow yourself to settle into patterns of things that feel good.
Create routine It’s dumb, I know. But taking the same path to class creates a sense of measure and schedule. Listening to the same playlist walking to classes puts me at ease. Putting on the same show as I get ready each morning helps me start my day. When smacked in the face with change, I’ve learned to grip onto the things that I can control. Taking this command—even of silly little things—has almost tricked me into routine. Fine, whatever works.
Rely on people I don’t understand being cynical and wary of trusting others, because at least in my experience, people tend to pull through. I’m definitely an independent person, but some people have really helped me out this semester. More than they can know. There were moments a few weeks ago when I wanted to curl into a ball under my covers and just devour all the food I could smuggle under with me. But so many people have replaced my need for endless chocolate bars with kind words, and it’s made me so much better (and skinnier). Shout out to everyone who’s been there for me.
Rely on yourself Whenever the strangeness of this semester feels stifling, I remember that I’ve been through a lot worse. Whenever I get frustrated by the fact that I still feel like I’m navigating my way through Orientation Week, I remember that I’ve dealt with way more earth-shattering change. I give myself a little pep talk, watch some Kid President, and get on with my day. Even when I want to crumble, I remember to pick myself up and be proud of myself. I’ve handled a lot in my life, and this semester will be no different; I will come out on top. I’ll be there for myself.
It’s really startling that there are—what?—five weeks left in the semester, and I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride. But I’m happy, really happy, and I’ve learned so much. Whenever Hopkins gets to feel like a big, scary place that I can’t get accustomed to, I remember how much I’ve accomplished and how much I’ve handled. And how much fun I’m having. I may have taken a few months to hit my stride, but it’s been a great semester so far.