The second Wednesday of classes, one of my professors made a comment about how we as students couldn’t possibly be stressing out yet. I thought about all of the meetings filling up my calendar, due dates cluttering my planner and messages filling my inbox. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry.
Elon students are notoriously over committed. As first years, we sign up at too many tables at the Org Fair. We are then confronted with several organizations whose student leaders expect members to make that club a priority. Professors often remind us to put our studies first because that’s what our parents and work-study programs are paying for.
It’s true that life after college will also be busy. Elon is a place for learning as we transition into our adult lives. We learn information vital to our professional fields and improve skills like time management. The most important and often underrated aspect of this is learning how to say no.
Saying no can be the first step to self care. Sometimes that means skipping a weekly meeting to finish a project and still get a good night’s sleep. Other times it means not going to an event to lay in bed and watch Netflix. And everyone once and awhile, self care means stepping away from a club all together.
My junior year I chose not to re-apply for a position on the board of one of the clubs I’m involved with on campus. The organization’s advisor took me out to coffee and asked me why I had made that decision. I told her honestly that I couldn’t make that club my priority as a board member, stay involved with the other organizations I’m a part of, keep up with my academic workload and take care of myself at the same time. I could stay involved, but not on board.
I’m grateful that this staff member was completely understanding, but I also know that might not always be the case, but it isn’t your job to make everybody else happy. It is your job, and perhaps I’m being somewhat hypocritical to tell you so, to take care of yourself.
Learning how to do so is one of the most important lessons you can learn at Elon. It’s a skill that will never lose its usefulness. And if you still want to be an overachiever, you can develop your patience and empathy to understand that other people will need time for self care, too.
Seniors, juniors and sophomores in charge of clubs need to be understanding that their club cannot be every member’s priority. First years deciding on what organizations to join should remember that it’s okay not to join every group that sounds like it might be interesting.
Get involved where you really want to but don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself. Padding your email signature shouldn’t cost your state of mind. There’s a reason your name comes first.