Of course, it's not like it used to be. When I was a kid, school was new notebooks, crayons, and that perfect outfit for the first day. It was also wondering who my new teacher was going to be like, if I was going to have friends in my class, and if lunch was going to be any good. Pretty simple stuff here. Now, it's paying for my parking permit, purchasing my textbooks, getting ink for my printer, and using my student funds to pay for as many things as I can in advance, so I don't have to worry about them later. Oh, yeah, and so I don't accidentally spend that money on something less important. Been there, done that.
But it's still a bit of a thrill, packing my backpack with some of the enormous stack of books required by five different professors. Picking my outfit out for the first day. Packing my lunch so that I'm not sucked into the Atrium, home of our campus Chic-fil-A. Printing a class schedule so that I can remember the room numbers. And leaving my apartment early so that I can catch the bus up to main campus. Later on in the semester, it will seem a bit ho-hum, but right now, there's still a thrill to pulling up in front of the main library and joining the throng of students on their way to class. Especially since just a few years ago, I never would have thought I'd be here!
Now that I'm in my second year here, I've managed to learn a thing or two about how to get everything (mostly) done. And unlike some of my friends, I've got to have a routine, structure, to make it all work out. (I'd love to be one of those people who never stress and still seem to get good grades, but I'm not from that planet!)
I have to get up and go to bed around the same time each day. With rare exceptions, I'm up around six and in bed between ten and eleven. Why? Because if I don't, I start getting cranky, tired, and majorly dependent on caffeine. Yeah, those of you who know me well remember times that I was sucking down major amounts of diet Pepsi just to keep my eyes open. Not going to happen this year, if I can help it.
I have to spread out my work. When you just have one or two classes, you might be able to get away with throwing together your projects and papers at the last minute, and you might even manage to get decent grades doing it, if you're a good enough writer. But when you're looking at five different classes, professors, expectations, you had better plan to be working consistantly. Or, you're going to be pulling some major all-nighters, and you still might not get decent grades! See the last paragraph: might work for some people, doesn't work for me. At all.
I've got to take care of my body. When I'm under stress, I tend to overeat and under-exercise. Constantly. And anyone who doesn't think that being a full-time student is stressful has probably managed to forget what it's like. So, instead of going through the drive-thru at Wendy's for the third time this week, I need to take advantage of the tiny kitchen in my apartment and cook something that's half-way good for me. And instead of always taking the bus up to campus, I need to take the 30 minute walk from King Village to Poe, where the majority of my classes are. I've done it many times before, I just need to work to make it a habit.
I need to rest regularly. When everything cranks up, my classes, my church, my obligations, I tend to schedule things seven days a week, in a frantic effort to keep up. This time, I need to remember that it doesn't work. If I have too many obligations, I need to trim them back. And I have to have a rest day, weekly. This summer, for the first time, I chose a day for nothing but rest: no homework, paid jobs, or chores. Period. And I was still able to handle the load. This fall, I need to do the same thing, and make sure I don't slip back into my old habit of being constantly on the run. Friday may not work, this semester, but I need to choose a day and make it stick. Having a sabbath rest day just seems to make the rest of it work better.
I need to remember my friends. When I'm busy and stressed, I tell people I'm FINE. (One of these days, ask me what that really means, it's funny!) I might be struggling with a paper, lonely, wishing I was elsewhere, but I still tend to say that I'm fine. But I need to spend time with people who care about me, who can ask the right questions and not think that fine means much of anything, and who make me laugh and forget my stresses. I love my friends, and they love me. The last thing I need to do is stay away from them when I need them the most!
Finally, and most important, I need to remember God, and why I'm here. I need to spend quiet time in prayer, in studying scripture, in just being in His presence. When I do, I am reminded that there is a reason that I am doing what I am doing, and it's not just to get a degree. I'm here because God has called me here. And when I'm stressing the most, that is what I need to remember. Where God guides, He will provide. He's done so all along, and I know He's faithful.
So, I'm off to do some reading for class. One of 'em, anyway.
Your running sister,