After two hellish years of living in dorms, Shea and I are finally free. Our housing contract is up, the lease for the new apartment is signed, and all of our belongings are moved in (but not quite unpacked). We have full time jobs this summer, two sweet little kittens, and time to pursue projects that we couldn't work on during the school year.
Now I'm trying to figure out where my life is going. My fear is that although it feels like life has started, once next semester rolls around I'll feel like I'm back where I started. Yes, I have a real home to live in, but that wasn't the only issue I've struggled with in college. Classes and the amount of studying I have to do for them have been very time consuming in the past. I'm taking Physics, Cell Biology, Linguistics, and Statistics next semester, and I think it's going to be challenging, as I'll also be balancing an executive role in my a cappella group, and 12 hour work weeks. I sometimes wonder if it is possible to be happy in college. It seems like it's designed to consume your life, and allow no room for what I consider "real living." I very much hope that I'm wrong. What I mean when I say "real living" is the ability to balance the amount of time I spend achieving my different values. Studying neuroscience, and obtaining my B.S. are two very big values. However, so are homecooked meals, eating healthy, singing, sleeping, painting, shopping, kittens, relaxing, and my relationship with Shea. Last semester, whenever I was doing something unrelated to academics, I felt guilty and couldn't enjoy it fully. In this case, getting my degree is one of my highest values, so I think it would be wrong to sacrifice my progress towards it to lesser values like shopping or playing video games. If this is what I think, then why do I feel so unhappy during the school year? Shouldn't I enjoy all the work, knowing how it will pay off? It's obviously not everything that I want to do. I don't really care for physics or linguistics, but I need to fulfill those requirements to get my degree so I can go on to grad school and get a PhD so I can do the kind of research I want to do. Does that mean I should enjoy those classes, or does that mean I should happily suffer through them? I know college is a lot of hard work, but I'm not sure how to know if I'm going about it the right way. Should I be miserable, or does that mean I'm doing something wrong? I've questioned my decision to be a neuroscientist many times. I could drop out and be a musician or an artist, but I truly believe I would be bored. I tell myself that I can do all those things as hobbies.
What I am wondering is if it is reasonable to expect a stable life while getting this degree. By that I mean to carry my job and a cappella group responsibilities, do well in my classes and learn what I need to learn, get a reasonable amount of sleep, and be able to cook regular *healthy* meals. A plus would be to have the option of doing something fun every other weekend or so.
My past experience tells me it could be possible. I have never pulled an all-nighter. Part of the reason for that is once I hit 2:00 am my brain shuts down and refuses to comprehend anything put in front of it. This means I've probably had a better sleep schedule than most of my peers. I have been able to cook some healthy meals before I had a real kitchen. They were by no means often, but now that Shea and I have the SVS, a reasonably sized kitchen, and a table to eat at I think it could be possible. Based on the end of this semester, I don't think studying will be that excruciating as long as I can do it at home. I have a designated office space now, and a comfy couch to read on. There is space to spread out and breathe, and two little kittens to snuggle if I get frustrated. I wasn't completely miserable during finals week, and this ended up being my best semester by far. I think the biggest question is whether or not I can expect to allow myself the luxury of watching tv, going shopping, or doing other fun, relaxing things (like painting) without jeopardizing my progress on my degree. Will I ever not feel guilty for doing something other than school work? Is it my fault if I am miserable, or is it just something that comes with the territory? I think I'll be happier overall because while my life will be extremely busy, it will have all the basic necessities that I've done without for two years, but I do hope that when I go back to school I don't end up feeling like I'm giving up "real living."