Overwhelming relief. That's what I felt as I rode down the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in my best friend's car on the night of our high school graduation. I stuck my head out the window and yelled: "FREEDOM!"
Don't get me wrong. I loved high school. But after spending four years of my life involved in dozens of activities and clubs, I was burned out. I had squeezed something into every minute of my schedule: student council, youth group, after-school job, band, choir, community volunteering, honors classes and AP tests. You name it, I probably did it in high school.
After tasting the liberation of high school graduation, I looked back on those four years and vowed: never again. Never again would I be the frazzled, overcommitted girl who couldn't say no.
Return to "Normal"
Fast-forward three months. I arrived on the campus of John Brown University in a buzz of excitement. My family helped me move into my residence hall room, and then I hugged them goodbye, eager to start this new phase of my life. I was just a carefree freshman ready to do nothing but go to a few classes each day and maybe do a little studying.
By the end of my first week at college, I had signed up for 18 hours of classes, joined the Honors Program, and tried out for the university's choir.
If only I had stopped there. During those first few months, there seemed to be an unending choice of activities, groups, clubs and ministries to get involved in, and I soon learned that I hadn't really learned to say "no."
And, just like in high school, I had a lot of people around me encouraging me to do more. Academic advisers pushed me to take honors courses, ministry leaders needed help, and friends wanted me to get involved in the same activities they were doing. And with my serious case of people-pleasing, I had a recipe for disaster.
Over the next two semesters, I joined a junior high ministry, took an overload of 18-plus hours each semester, started taking voice lessons, added a music minor to my journalism major and Greek minor, interviewed and was accepted to be a Resident Assistant (RA), and worked a part-time job on campus. I had slowly but surely inched my way back into the "way overcommitted" category.
Two Places at Once?
During the summer after my freshman year, I worked a full-time job as a public relations assistant and led a large-scale Bible study for about 40 girls in the youth group at my home church. It had been a busy but fulfilling summer, and I was excited to get back to college to catch up with all my friends and start the new year.
Because I was going to be an RA that year, I was supposed to move back to campus a couple of weeks before classes started. During that time, I was to attend RA training and get my residence hall ready for students to move into. A few weeks before I was supposed to move back on campus, the youth pastor at my home church asked if I could help lead the worship and be a sponsor for a big retreat the youth group was having. "Sure!" I immediately said.
Then I looked at the dates of the retreat. It overlapped with my RA training. My mind started whirling with ideas about how I could do both. I called my hall director at college and worked out a schedule where I could drive back and forth from home to campus during those days, as long as I didn't miss any of the training sessions. Perfect! I would have to miss a couple of parts of the retreat, but I thought it should all work.
A couple of days before the retreat, I drove the hour-and-a-half to John Brown and moved into my residence hall room. I tried to get unpacked while starting a barrage of RA training seminars. The moment they were finished, I bolted back to my car and sped back home to help lead the retreat, and then drove back to campus again.