finding your balance :: surviving college, work, + life.

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{ photo by davide ragusa }

You're a college freshman. You've just moved into your dorm, you have no idea how to get to your first class, where you can use your meal plan at, or how to talk to anyone you see. That's okay. 
You've already been through all of that. You're working 40+ hours a week, taking 19 credit hours, and wondering how you're going to pay rent or buy next semester's books. And because of that, you feel scared or alone or too stressed out. That's okay. 
You're not even in college - you can't imagine finding the time or money to attend - but you're still stressed between this bill and that late fee and this emergency. You don't know what to do. And that's okay too. 

Let's talk through it.

          • For the freshmen (or just the college kids who are still scared and lost)
Take your time. You're paying a lot of money to be here, don't try to make it go by so quickly. 
Your college experience is not mine. It is not your best friend's, or your parent's, or your older sibling's. It is your own and you can do what makes you happy. If going Greek makes you happy, then rush. If you want to spend every waking moment getting involved or meeting someone new or "making the most" of college, then you do that. 
But if you want to go back to your dorm room after class and spend your free time there, do that. The movies don't show that part of college. The part where you retreat back to your too hot or too cold (because the university decides the temp of your room and it's never quite right) room and watch Netflix while you eat the campus food that isn't as bad as everyone said it would be. The part where you stay up until 2 decorating your room to make it feel like home. The part where you and your roommate lay in your beds and talk between episodes of Law and Order. 
You do not have to go to every party, be best friends with every professor, know everyone in your class' name. You just have to be and do what makes you happy. 
So if that means decorating your dorm with pictures of puppies, spending your time in the library or Starbuck's, or going to parties and meeting new people, do it. Just remember that you don't have to impress anyone but yourself. 

          • For the over-worked, too-stressed-to-think, and sleep deprived:
It's okay to vent. Rant on Tumblr, whine on Twitter, text every friend and cry about how your feet hurt, your mind is too numb to read another chapter, and you're pretty sure you can actually hear your bank account crying.
Learn to live better. Whether that means going out to eat less and cooking at home more. You can find a lot of valuable resources on reddit when it comes to "frugal" living and cooking. Here are a few of my favorites:
- food hacks
- meal prep sunday
- cheap meals
- cooking for beginners
- frugal living
It's not a bad thing to want to buy something nice for yourself, though. So don't berate yourself for buying movie tickets to go see (insert the coolest movie that's going to be released). Just go about it better than before. Eat at home so you won't spend $4.50 on a hot dog (yeah, that's an actual price from the movie theater I went to recently). Don't go to the most expensive theater, either. The smaller ones are usually cheaper. And make sure to bring your student ID! Movie tickets cost about $25 for 2 here, but if we use our IDs, it takes it down to $15. That's a huge discount!
Don't be afraid to switch crappy jobs. I've been at a fast food place that shall not be named for almost 2 years now. I know what to do, I know the environment, I'm good at it. But I know that sometimes, growth means moving on, especially if you're just switching between minimum wage jobs. Moving to a new environment is scary, just like coming to college was. But you never know who you will meet, what experiences you'll have, until you do it.

          • For the ones who just want to make it through until the next paycheck:
Don't be scared to ask for help. Most banks have financial advising (TCF is an example of one that offers free financial assistance and classes), some colleges let their accounting students get practice by helping others out for free. Some dental schools offer deeply discounted prices if you get your checkups done by students - with guidance by professionals, of course. And a lot of cosmetology school students will do your hair or makeup just for the sake of practice.
Don't give up on dreaming. If you really want to go to school, don't stop imaging and working towards that. If you want a house with a pool, don't stop picturing it. Because the moment you settle for what you have now is the moment you stop working towards the future.
You're not a bad person because you don't have x, y, and z. Just because half of your graduating class is married with kids and you're sinking all of your time into work, it doesn't mean you've missed out. Their (perceived) happiness doesn't mean you can't get to a place where you're equally happy. Maybe happiness for you isn't getting married, maybe it's starting your own business or travelling the world or just finding a comfortable job and being able to enjoy Netflix while not worrying about late fees. Whatever it is, work towards it. Stop comparing yourself to the people around you; that just fuels unhappiness. 

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes there is nothing better than spending all your free time in the library. Especially if it has good coffee - I was lucky at mine!