Nothing against Herman Melville, but reading Moby Dick in my high school senior English class registered a whopping zero on the Prepared-Me-For-College scale. A more practical selection, in my opinion, would have been that thought-provoking masterpiece, "The Tortoise and the Hare." Call me Ishmael the blubber-brained, but I honestly believe this classic tale of the speedy rabbit and the steady turtle is the perfect allegory for college life.
The pace of college life, you see, is anti-tortoise. To put things in SAT perspective, college is to turtle as WWJD is to WWE. This, perhaps, is why you will never hear of a university with the nickname "Fighting Snails" or "Broken Ford Pintos." I think a more fitting nickname would be "Raging Hornets With Salsa Up Their Noses."
Yes, college campuses rank right up there with train stations and anthills as hubs of activity. There are classes and homework and laundry and friends and meals and ministry opportunities and events and concerts and chapels and sleep and intramural sports—just to name a few things—all of which beck on to land a spot in your weekly planner. It is an ideal environment for a hyperactive hare. But like the rabbit who burned out in the story, a similar fate awaits those who don't go the way of the turtle and pace themselves.
I chose the hare-brained route. For me, arriving on campus was like dining at my favorite restaurant. Nearly everything on the college menu looked good, and I wanted to sample all of it. The problem was I tried to order everything at once. This mistake is so common in college, there ought to be a support group: "Hello, my name is Josh, and I am a glutton for activity."
I saw it everywhere in college. A student government retreat causes a friend to fall behind on homework, which forces him to catch up on daily assignments when he gets back, which inadvertently makes him put off a project until the last minute, which leaves him no choice but to skip the prayer meeting for the ministry he is involved in. When he finally catches up, he's so sick of work that he plays Ping-Pong until 3 a.m., which sends him through the cycle all over again. This scenario found its way into my life and my friends' lives many a time. It's easy to bite off more than you can figuratively chew in the course of college life.
On the other hand, college would be a yawner if it weren't for its active nature. The challenge is to find a balance between boredom and chaos. Finding the perfect balance, however, is like stumbling across a Beanie Baby reciting Shakespeare in Russian. It's not going to happen. Even the most low-strung, responsible individual will likely have a fistful of activities in college. The secret is to recognize when things are beginning to spin out of control and tip the busyness scale back in your favor.
As a tool to help identify when you're too busy, I've compiled three warning signs. They should serve as flashing red lights to those about to take the activity plunge.
Warning Sign No. 1: Involuntary Sleep
I spent my college career building an immunity to alarm clocks. Their early-morning venom no longer phases me. The 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada could have happened in my dorm room at 8 a.m. on a school day, and I would have had to watch it on the 11 o'clock news that night. That was a problem, because I often needed to be in class at 8 a.m. A handful of times, I slept right through. Other times I arrived seconds late, ballcap pulled tightly over sleep-crusted eyes, ill-prepared for an hour of learning.
I'm sure four out of five professors would agree this is a poor way to get an education. If you're going to shell out enough cash for your tuition to purchase Windsor Castle, you might as well be alert and ready to learn while class is in session. This was a lesson that took me too long to learn. Excessive busyness took its toll as, night after night, I struck out in my effort to clock even six hours of Zs. I repeatedly found my always-on-the-go body feeling fatigued.
The day you find yourself snoozing through class is the day you should begin to make adjustments to your schedule.