Fall semester boundaries

Photo by Allie Ghisson, Student Publications

Fall semesters are notoriously stressful for me. I’m not sure what makes them so much harder than spring semesters but it’s almost a ritual at this point to start the fall semester confident that it will be different than the last only to end up living out the usual pattern.

The past two fall semesters have found me overwhelmed, overcommitted, and taking way too many classes.

About halfway through the semester, after several breakdowns, I end up dropping a class and weeding out the commitments that take more than they give.

This semester is a bit different. It’s my last fall semester here at Tech, there’s no wiggle room, no “I’ll just take that class next semester when I have more time,” no “I can do more next time.” I’m running out of time and even though I’ll still be here in the spring, it’s still dwindling.

Not only is my time running out, but global events have made this last year unlike any other.

So, what do you do when you find yourself over-committed and stretched thin? I can’t answer that question for you, but it’s worth taking the time to think through. At the moment, I’m back where I’ve always been, in over my head at the deep end of the pool.

Except for this time, there’s nothing I’m willing to give up. I couldn’t drop any of my classes even if I wanted to and I love the things I’ve committed myself to outside of classes.

I love being the online editor of the Technique and I love having the opportunity to serve in a leadership position in my ministry; but how can I possibly make all of this work? How do I hold onto the things I love without letting them bury me?

Lately, when I call my family and they ask me how I’m doing, their immediate response is to start poking and prodding my life to find something I can get rid of, something I can stop doing.

I think it’s most people’s initial response to the stress of others to try and fix it for them, but I don’t need someone to fix this for me, I need someone to believe in me. To tell me I can hold onto the things that matter to me and still keep up with my schoolwork.

To validate that this is a hard but worthy endeavor, especially if it matters to me.

It was at this point that one of my sisters said to me, “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” This little nugget of wisdom has been floating around in my head since I first heard it.

Okay, so maybe I can’t do everything. Ouch. That’s not something I like to hear, but I can still do anything.

I have already made up my mind to not drop any of my commitments so within those parameters, how does this apply?

This here marks the first step in what looks to be a long journey into the realm of boundaries. Boundaries have become my practice of not doing everything. Setting boundaries is also a form of necessary self-love.

My boundaries are small, but they have served me well so far. Sometimes they look like not responding to that friend who texted me at 11 p.m. to ask about the homework until the next morning, other times it looks like going to bed as soon as I finished the most urgent things for the day or taking an actual break to eat dinner with my roommates instead of eating at my computer.

These are just baby steps in managing a busy life but having a busy life doesn’t have to default as a bad thing. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice the things and commitments that give us life just because they cause stress.

There are always moments where we have to decide for ourselves what is worth our time, energy, and our stress; but those are decisions that we get to make for ourselves, decisions that no one can make for you.

Maybe this semester started out like all the other fall semesters, but I like to think and hope, that the boundaries I’ve begun to realize will break the pattern of trying to do everything while keeping in mind that I can do anything.