There’s a quip that goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” It took me a while to sort through the implications of that statement when I first heard it. “Why would I ask someone that already has too much on their plate to get something done for me,” I scoffed. And then I got to college.
My freshman year I struck up conversation with some kid in some introductory 500 person class Cornell conveniently forgets to mention they have in their pre-frosh handbooks. He was a sophomore chemical engineering major taking 23 credits and not regretting every decision he’s ever made. I was dumbfounded. Every person I’d spoke with up until that point had insisted the best way to tackle your time at Cornell was to take a 15 credit course load every semester, leave time for extracurriculars, and a life outside of school (and sleep, but honestly that one’s more debatable).
He seemed entirely comfortable with his decision. I believe the way he phrased it was something along the lines of “I do better when I’ve got things to do. Keeps me on my toes.” I may or may not have rolled my eyes at the time, but now as I’m entering my junior year of college, I can see why having things to do isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t to say those people taking 15 credits and killing it (in a good way) don’t have things to do. People thrive under different environments, and finding what works for you is a large part of college many people tend to forget when recounting what their college experience did for them. Coming straight out of high school, most of us were the kind of people that did everything all the time. It’s a strange feeling to come to college and not have what you’re supposed to do to succeed laid out for you in a neat schedule.
Some people are a lot better at figuring out what works for them than others. The ChemE I spoke to my freshman year? The kid has his life together in a way that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish at the age of 45 with an career and two kids behind me (presence of a husband yet to be decided).
I’d say there’s a small subset of people that don’t have their life together enough to actually have their life together. It’s the people that are probably two hours late to things, switch up plans on you, don’t actually know what’s going on in the next month — but they’ll get the work done regardless. They’ll be there when it counts, and it’s those people I hope you take inspiration from most in college.
Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.