Looking into the new term with newfound wisdom

Jane Elinor O Connor 30 January 2018

My time in Cambridge is limited- this was my biggest epiphany at the end of 2017. I spent a fair amount of time last term struggling to juggle academics with personal goals like rowing and writing. For me, one of the cons of my 9 month course is that it is too short, and by the time I learnt the secret to a healthy work-life balance in Cambridge, I realised that about half of my time here was already over.

Here are some of the lessons which I took back with me last term, and hope to implement going forward this term:

Time spent stressing about time is time wasted. My first term in Cambridge was extremely overwhelming because I worried about not completing all my readings for class, and the more I spoke to other people about it, I realised that everybody was in the same boat! Losing my mental peace over not reading for classes yielded nothing and was further time wasted. Now, instead of stressing about not working hard enough, I tell myself that it is okay if the only thing I did on a particular day was breathe.

If I think that something is over-hyped, chances are that it is, and it is okay to quit if I don’t enjoy something. With scores of activities taking place at any given time in Cambridge, we are spoilt for choice. I took up rowing last term because it was a very “Oxbridge thing” to do. While rowing certainly seems glamorous on the outside, one should not underestimate that the sport requires dedication. I am athletic by nature, but admittedly, rowing for me is not worth spending sleepless nights over. Instead of ignoring the voice in my head which told me that I don’t want to do it anymore, I wish I had left rowing mid-way in the term. To each his own is beautiful, and I am allowed to be disenchanted with the hype surrounding something and call it quits. When we become too conscious that the world would perceive us as a “quitter”, we stop being fair to ourselves – our time in this world is limited, we cannot afford to spend it on something we don’t enjoy.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the fruit, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each”. This to me signifies spontaneity in life and living in the present. I always break up my day into a list of things which I have to do and for the greater part of the week, I am able to accomplish most of my intended goals. However, I have come to appreciate that spontaneity in life makes it interesting. Recently, I stepped in as a steward at the last minute on Burns Night in place of a sick friend- I never would have imagined when saying ‘yes’ to my friend that I would end up “cèilidh-ing” the night away and loving every bit of the experience!

Early to bed, early to rise makes me healthy, happy and wise. When I sleep on time and get between 7-8 hours of sleep at night, I can start my days early and fit in time for exercise which I wouldn’t otherwise. I am also able to focus much better in my classes. If I were sleep-deprived, I would be in low spirits throughout the day.

‘Creativity’ is the word of the year. A friend recently asked me what word I would use to describe 2018. For me, the word of the year is ‘creativity’- some of the projects which I have lined up for this term are- an international student guide for incoming graduate students in college (which I am preparing in the capacity of the MCR International Student Officer), writing and directing a play and embroidering something for display in my college cafe.

I cannot stress how important it is to have a creative outlet to channelise the stresses of student life, and I feel that expressing myself through creative works will ensure that I get through this term just fine.