Freedom and its Consequences

I open my dorm room and throw my backpack by the desk chair. After taking off my shoes, I roll myself in a blanket burrito. Eleven in the morning and the school day is over. Got hours to chill, my voice sing-songed in my head. For the first two weeks of Fall quarter, this became my regular routine. I had classes in the morning and the entire day to myself. During high school, I used to dream of just going home early and knocking out.

It’s fun living on my own. Staying up without hearing someone nag me to go to bed. Eating whatever and whenever. I would go about my day with no fixed plans. Maybe do my HILD 2A reading? Binge watch Black Mirror? Finally vacuum my dorm? Options were always available and I had infinitely more time than my usual forty school hours a week life. I was enjoying this new unregulated lifestyle. The constant stress bomb from my previous years had completely dissipated when I stepped onto UCSD campus.

As I stayed in the warmth of my comforter, my mind slowly drifted off to sleep. Ping! Ping! Ping! My phone wakes me up. I groggily rolled over and grab my phone. An email from my ECON 1 professor lights up, “Practice midterm is up. Homework due Sunday as well. Have a good week!”

Illustration by Kyoko Ishikawa

A gravelly groan comes from my throat. That was fast, I began to realize. The weeks went through me like water. Sitting up, I check the time and saw that my nap lasted for over two hours. Roughly planning my day, I decided to get lunch and then study. Then, a thought interrupts my plans. Math homework is due tomorrow. A sigh of annoyance came out of my mouth. New plan: Lunch, then math homework, and then some minor studying. You should do ECON homework before studying, the annoying voice rang again. Fine. I’ll have lunch, do math, and then do ECON homework. I’ll study for my midterm tomorrow. I could feel the little voice smiling in amusement. We’ll see.

Eight o’clock PM. I toss myself back into my chair. Closing the window for my MATH 20A homework, I smile. Break time. A bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos which I have been saving all day is pulled out of my bag. The satisfying crack from opening an ice cold Coca Cola fills the room. One episode and it’s back to work. I open up Netflix.

Cut to one hour after. As the ending theme song plays, the urge to stay on the page freezes my hand from typing in TritonEd. After twenty seconds of contemplating, I click “Play Next Episode.” The little voice’s satisfied laughter filled my head. Shut up. I still have the rest of the week.

Cut to one week after. The cliched but very real regret weighed over my shoulder as I create my review notes for my ECON 1 midterm. The night before the test. Great time management skills, the little voice sarcastically commented. My hand ached from gripping my pencil for the past four hours. I let myself one second of a break to check the time. Almost two in the morning. I quickly wrap up my notes and plunge into my comforter.

The next day, I trudged into the Price Center Theater. The test was a blur. I theorized that I blocked it out as a coping mechanism. The first thorough exhale in two days escaped my body. Done for the day.

Rewarding ourselves after the exam, my friends and I decided to get some junk food and hangout. I took one big swig of Coca Cola. The crisp taste revived me from a less than full night of sleep. Never again, I promised myself. As you have read from my one month journey of fun curdling to stress, I had the right kind of trauma to change my ways. I was mapping out my new schedule in my head as my friends continued to chat. Right after class, I would grab lunch and head to the library. After that, I can fit in going to the gym. Then, I have the rest of the night to relax. It was a good plan.

As you can imagine, my one month journey became a three month journey. I went back home for the holidays with the pathetic “I could have done better” regret.

Illustration by Kyoko Ishikawa

Returning to campus, I realized that I can’t be the most skilled person in time management. I took small steps to get myself organized. Maybe I don’t need to read the entire chapter in one sitting. Maybe I could just read a few pages a day so I won’t dread it completely and put it off. I’m not saying I became the most put together person in the world but college has punished me enough to make me avoid going through spiraling down again.

Since I am one of the oldest kids in my family, a lot of my younger relatives in high school ask about college and advice. I actually refrain from telling them “manage your time.” The phrase is usually met with a scoff or a statement of assurance. Figuring out how to navigate college is something everyone has to go through to understand no matter how many warnings are given.

I became appreciative of experiencing the nasty aftermath of overindulging. It’s like having my first job. I learned how to value money since my time was monetized in a way. Almost wrapping up my first year, the real thing I learned was that procrastination and the lack of control is part of the process. These screw ups should happen so it won’t happen again. So to all my fellow first years and incoming freshmen, have fun. Then learn how to have fun while successfully balancing responsibilities.

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