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Sophomore struggles: the importance of taking time

Published: October 21, 2011
Section: Opinions


Throughout all of high school, each and every activity—whether academic, athletic or extracurricular—was done with the future in mind. Upon volunteering or signing up for anything I would always ask myself: “Will this help me get into college?” Everything I’d do was explicitly done in an attempt to make me more appealing to college admission officers.

After successfully receiving admission to a number of fantastic universities, I thought the days of doing things for the sake of maximizing future benefit would be finished.

I came to Brandeis eager and excited to get involved in activities I loved doing. I was going to take only classes I enjoyed and volunteer with organizations for which I had a true desire to contribute. Throughout my first semester I dabbled in several groups and got involved around campus. I rowed crew, volunteered at admissions and got a job at Conference & Events.

Winter break came and first semester came to a close. When I returned in January I was shocked by the amount of activities with which my friends were getting involved. They were becoming coordinators for Waltham Group and FallFest Core or getting positions as club presidents and e-board members or becoming heavily involved with Greek life. Have I been doing something wrong?

Not only was there this sudden pressure from my peers to get involved but, I also realized that, in order to gain admission into medical school (to which I have been planning to apply), I must also get involved. The cycle has begun to repeat itself. As soon as I’ve made it into college, I already had to have medical school admissions in mind.

Coming into my sophomore year, the pressures to get involved increased. I became an orientation leader, campaigned and joined the student senate, pledged a fraternity and increased my involvement in previous activities. It wasn’t until an interview with a future fraternity brother that I realized that I didn’t necessarily enjoy everything with which I was involved. I never had any time to develop personal hobbies. I never had time for Jeremy. I became so involved and so over-scheduled that I had almost no time just to relax. It seemed that everything I was doing was what I should be doing, instead of what I wanted to be doing.

Further reflection made me begin to think about whether I myself was doing things “right.” Until high school, and even early in college, my thoughts about life had been to make money and be successful. Not once when I thought about my future did I wonder whether or not I would be happy with what my life had become. I’ve realized now that my perspective on life must radically be shifted. Before, my goals had been to 1) make lots of money and 2) become a doctor. But now I realized that my ranking was out of whack. I now understand the importance of happiness. I know now that life isn’t all about the size of one’s bank account but the size of one’s heart. I want to have a career that gives me joy and makes me feel as if I am making a meaningful contribution to society. Happiness is not a matter of money but in finding my true purpose. I want to make a difference in others’ lives and not only feel that it matters but love doing it as well. Most of all, I want to live without any doubts or regrets, and to be satisfied with what my life has become.

I have forgotten the importance of having joy, happiness and a purpose in the things I pursue. I must recognize the difference between doing something because it is expected and finding significant meaning in my actions. I now understand that being happy means finding the value in what I do. To live a successful life and feel that it matters isn’t as straightforward as it sounds and at times may feel impossible. If I can someday be nearly as happy, giving and caring as I truly know is possible, however, it will be worth all the heartaches.