I’ve struggled my fair share with balancing schoolwork, relaxation and socialization. Erring on the side of schoolwork can be not only lonely and exhausting but also disrespectful to one’s friends, but putting relaxation first often times leads to disappointment in academic work. This semester I’m doing the best I ever have at finding balance, and I want to try to put into words the skills and strategies I use to accomplish this equilibrium.
The first and most important piece of advice is something a philosophy teacher brought to my attention last semester: “Don’t work hard to play hard.” We succumb too easily to the mentality that we work through the week as a punishment in order to receive our reward: free time on the weekend. This is a damaging mentality because it makes students see their studies as means to the end of a weekend of pleasure. If we can somehow find pleasure, find play and imagination, in the work we do, we see it in a more positive light. Every day of schoolwork is not sheer torture, but is (dare I say?) fun. When I take classes that I enjoy when I allow the material to apply to my life, I work hard and play hard at the same time.
A second strategy I use to add relaxation and socialization into my days is utilizing meal times as social gatherings. Eating with my friends is a great way to catch up with them without using up time I would have used for homework or studying.
Lastly, I think it’s very important to have a planner or another type of scheduling device where I can actually write out and keep track of how much time I spend working and not working. That way, I’m not tempted to try to multitask work with friends or work while watching netflix (both of which are never successful enterprises).
The Spring Semester has arrived with full force! So far I am incredibly pleased with the courses I enrolled in this semester. I thought it might be interesting for you all to hear about 3 of my favorite classes.
- T/RS 490: The Life and Afterlife of Saint Paul. This Theology course is the capstone seminar for all Theology and Religious Studies majors this year. Majors must take the seminar either in their junior or senior year. The topic of the seminar changes according to the teacher who is leading the seminar each year. I love the environment of this class: it’s a group of 11 students around a small table discussing the letters of St. Paul once a week. We’re all Theology nerds, so it’s a delight to discuss the history, meaning, and impact of the Pauline epistles in such intimacy. Because we only meet once a week, the work load is pretty heavy (one epistle + 2-3 secondary sources). However, it’s a good amount of material to keep us discussing for the entire 2 and ½ hours of class time. Yesterday, we discussed Paul’s letter to the Galatians and Martin Luther’s enormously influential interpretation of it.
- T/RS 386H: Mariology. This Theology course is a tutorial in the Honors Program. Our class is small — only 3 students! — and we meet once a week in my professor’s office. Like the Capstone, there is a lot of reading, but it’s been incredibly enjoyable. The topic of the class is the Blessed Virgin Mary. We read an article on Mary’s shadowy appearances in the Old Testament last week, and now we are discussing her periodical appearances in the gospels. I always wish this class could go on longer; that’s how much I enjoy it!
- PHIL 341J: The Subject and Medieval Thought. This Philosophy course is a junior-level course in the SJLA Honors Program. Because the SJLA group has been taking classes with each other for the past three years, we know one another very well and have a great time in class. The pleasure of learning with friends is only augmented by our energetic teacher, who somehow manages to make tedious medieval writing exciting and mind-blowing without dumbing it down. We always roar with laughter at some demonstration (for example, we played charades the other day to see if, as St. Augustine argued, we cannot learn anything from signs signifying things or signs signifying other signs). It’s obvious that our professor has an intense respect and love for medieval thinking in all of its obscurity, and that makes for a marvelous class.