I graduated college pretty satisfied with everything I’ve learned, but I’d be lying if I said that I had no regrets at all. To put things into context, let’s just say that I was your typical self-oriented perfectionist in university. I studied hard to make it to the dean’s list every semester, all while juggling part-time work, internships, and org leadership positions at the same time. Basically, I was burning the candle at both ends for four straight years, and even then, I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough.
Ignoring my burnout, I took on every opportunity that came my way and told myself that I’d regret choosing otherwise. But looking back now, I only ever regret not being kind to myself, not listening to my body when I’ve deprived it of the most basic needs. I regret sacrificing my sanity for self-imposed standards that are impossible to reach in the first place.
Obviously, I can’t turn back time now. But at the very least, I can write about the things I wish I knew in the hopes that my realizations will help a fellow workaholic out there.
3 Life Lessons I'd Tell My Overworked College Self
1. Take things at your own pace.
The “life’s not a race” motto is as cliché as it gets, but that doesn’t make it any less true. There will always be someone out there who’s better than you (a hard pill to swallow, we know), so there’s simply no point in comparing yourself to others. You don’t have to beat yourself up over missing the bonus question in an exam or having a smaller circle of friends. Allow yourself to do things at your own pace, even if that means ending the day with less titles in your CV. Focus on the bigger picture: If you invest in your well-being now, you’ll feel happier with your work in the long-run.
2. It’s impossible to know everything.
You tell yourself that you should have everything figured out by now, because isn’t that what your early twenties are for? Well, yes and no. It’s common to feel like you’re running out of time, but trust us when we say that you’re still so young. You’re allowed to feel lost—in fact, you’re supposed to feel lost. It's definitely a scary feeling, but this is only the beginning of your journey to self-discovery. So the next time you feel guilty for doubting your chosen course, listen to your intuition no matter how unnerving it seems to be.
Don’t wait for your body to force you to rest. Just rest. Make time to recharge not because you have to, but simply because it makes you happy. Whether you landed your dream internship or failed that final Math test, you will always deserve to rest. There’s more to you than your work, your grades, your best achievements and worst failures. Behind all that stress and ambition, there’s simply you, a valued person who is never defined by a completed checklist.
Take care of yourself out there! We’ll always be rooting for you.