You walk onto your college campus for the first time, and it’s surreal; there’s a sort of nostalgia for memories you haven’t yet made. You look around at this brand new place that will someday contain years’ worth of memories for you. You’ll walk these sidewalks thousands of times, you’ll sit in the classrooms, you’ll form life-changing friendships. You’ll cry here and laugh here and, maybe, even fall in love here. You’ll grow up here. As for that feeling you get while taking those first few steps on campus as an official student, those butterflies in your stomach, that’s the recognition of possibilities.
College holds a plethora of possibilities and opportunities for you. There will be fairs and events all for the sole purpose of informing you of the multitudes of clubs, organizations, groups, teams, and volunteer positions you can join in. These are all pathways to learning more about yourself, developing your interests and passions, and making friends. So, sign up, join up, and get involved!
But, as someone who has been there, sister, let me tell you, don’t sign up for all of them. You know what, don’t even sign up for too many of them. Respect your limitations, allow yourself to be picky (your life is precious, so be intentional with your time), and learn to say “no.” This is a good time to learn what you’re actually passionate about, instead of just picking what’s popular or trying to be passionate about everything.
Balance is key. When it comes to the extracurricular—if it excites you, if it thrills you, if it’s worth the time, if it’s something you care about and your gifts align with—say yes! If you’re doing it just because your friends are, or someone asked you to, or you think you should, or you think it will look good, say no. If you feel a nudge in your heart from God, say yes. If you feel stress about adding it your calendar, say no.
Learn now: it’s okay to say no. People are actually far more understanding than we give them credit for. Mostly, if you tell them something along the lines of, “Sorry, I have a class with tons of homework, and I barely even have time for what I’m already signed up for,” they understand.
My sophomore year of college I attended a seminar about learning how to “manage your jar.” While I’ve since heard about jar methods for helping you learn how manage your money, this seminar was all about how to manage your life. The speaker discussed viewing your schedule as a jar, and how you spend your life are stones you fill the jar with; the most important things in your life (time with God, your classes, your Church, your family, etc.) are big stones, while the less important, the extra, are smaller stones (extracurricular activities, hobbies, seminars, etc.).
Whatever the big and small stones represent are different for every person, but what isn’t different, is that to fit things in the best way—you have to put the big stones in the jar first. Then, the small things can glide in easily into all the little extra nooks and crannies between the big stones. But, if you try to put the small things first, you’ll wind up not being able to fit in all the big, important stones.
It’s the same in our lives; if we get too caught up putting the small things first, the big things suffer or wind up not being fit in at all. When managing your jar, always ask yourself first: is this a big thing or a small thing? Don’t let an extra interest undermine something important like an actual class. Don’t let an onslaught of activities make you too tired to attend church.
Now, I want you to think about your biggies: God, school, family…but, also, please, remember to add ‘you’ to that list. Make sure you are on your list of priorities. Your health, spiritual, physical, mental, deserves to be treated as a biggie.
This reminds me of Mark 6:31, when Jesus had to tell his overworked disciples, “’Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” How often is Jesus speaking this to us?
If I could impart one last piece of advice: schedule in time for self-care. Obviously, make sure to have time with God—find a church, have your quiet time, join a group of other college-aged Christians. But also, schedule into your routine those little extra things God has blessed you with that gives you restoration and peace; tend to that which grows from your foundation.
This could be scheduling a little time for a nap or a little extra time in the evenings for a long steamy shower and a face mask, or an evening walk listening to your favorite music once a week, maybe a phone time-out zone (those do wonders for me!), an afternoon where you take yourself on a date or go on a date with God. Maybe you’re restored by people and conversation: go out with girlfriends once a week (I knew a group of girls who had a Breakfast Club—doesn’t that sound good for the soul?), find a mentor whose conversation refreshes your spirit and get coffee with them once a week, or schedule in skype dates with your family. Even if it’s simply making sure to curl up with tea and a good book once a week. Just make sure you take a break long enough to actually stop, appreciate, and enjoy all the other stuff filling up your jar.
God honors hard work, He honors go-getters, and He wants you to work hard to bring His plans for your life to fruition. College is the best time to truly develop your work ethic. But God also is a God who calls for rest and restoration. He gave us the Sabbath and directs us to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). God specifically wants you, His daughter, to have time for rest in her schedule.
An example of this in the Word can be found later on in that same chapter of Mark we discussed earlier. After God performed a miracle and spent time with His friends and followers, He chose time for rest. He had his friends go on ahead of Him, He dismissed the crowd, and He went off by himself for prayer and restoration.
Sister, college will be one of the best times of your life. It will be fun, inspiring, hilarious, and you’ll love that you went—it doesn’t have to be a menu of fun and inspiration with stress and anxiety as side-dishes. You can take those off the plate; actually, you don’t even have to order them. This is a new season of life. Go after it with all you’ve got; just handle it all with care.
In any new adventure you begin, in that nervous rush of excitement, remember that God is going along with you. There’s not even one second you’re doing it on your own. Our Heavenly Father is holding your hand and promising over and over, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14).