Advice, Lifestyle

How dropping a class helped me recognize my limits

I dropped a class this semester. I’ve dropped classes before but always intended to replace them with another course. This semester was the first time I dropped one and left the empty place in my schedule. 

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Graphic Artist

It wasn’t an easy decision. I agonized over this class for the first few weeks of the semester. I felt strung out and exhausted — on a clear path to burning out at age twenty. I was overwhelmed to a further extent than I had been before.

Classes overall are stressful. I’ve never had a semester that I could just breeze through, but this time was different. My workload and stress were taking a deep physical toll on me. My roommate even commented on how differently I was acting.

But, being the way I am, I thought I could just push through. I didn’t want to be a “quitter” — someone that gives up when the going gets tough. I stuck it out for a few weeks, thinking I could get used to the additional constant anxiety. My mindset was to push through another week and don’t worry about the next, which unquestionably held equal or more difficult challenges.

I vividly remember the day I decided enough was enough. I came back to my apartment for my quick lunch in between classes, passing the colorful schedule my roommate drew for me and put on our fridge. I imagined, with more than average longing, how lovely it would be to have four classes rather than five, to have an additional hour each day for myself and my other work. 

It was then I realized it was fully within my power to give myself that. Why continue to push myself to and beyond my limit, when I can just accommodate my current needs? I had space in my schedule, I told myself, so what’s the point in cramming in classes?

I dropped a class within an hour of having that realization. I texted a few friends, asking for their opinions, but just craving validation for the decision I had already made. 

It doesn’t feel good to admit you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. It’s humbling and damaging to your confidence — especially if you’re like me and strive for academic perfection. 

I always thought I could do it all and then some, but this semester threw that belief into question. I didn’t want to “just get through the week.” Everyone says these are the best years of your life, so why should I be stressed to the point of tears and exhaustion every day when there is another clear other option?

I know some people would disagree with my choice, saying I need to be stronger or more organized. This view seems to be rooted in the idea that working yourself to the bone is a hallmark of productivity and advancement, that being tired all the time means you’re doing good work.

To me, that belief is outdated and dangerous. We’re all human and we all have our limits. If you have yet to hit yours, that’s not a bad thing. It’s an uncomfortable and difficult experience. If you have hit yours, I hope you took a similar path to me, advocating for yourself and accommodating your needs.

Part of growing up and taking on more responsibility is figuring out what is enough and what is too much. It’s all a learning process, and learning about yourself is rarely easy.

I can’t give you a guide for what this looks like, but it will undoubtedly happen. I just ask myself and anyone reading to be kind to yourselves. 

Be patient and attentive as you test your limits. 

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