Reflection: To Make Strides, Lighten Your Load
Allison Burg ’25 reflects on the downsides of having a “work hard, play hard” mindset after a jam-packed winter term.
I still have vivid memories of running the 400-meter dash on my high school track team. As I reached the final 100 meters, my feet pounding against the ground, I’d convince myself to continue sprinting while my body begged me to stop. I had many flashbacks to these grueling moments last term, and I now think of that period of time as my real-life 400-meter sprint.
How did this happen? Well, I took on far too much –– on top of a challenging course load, I did research, wrote for The Dartmouth, became a SIBs mentor, rushed a sorority and worked a partime job. As I piled more into my schedule than I could manage, I had to push myself to keep sprinting.
Despite being overwhelmed, I felt gratified whenever I flaunted that I could juggle it all. Yes, I was out on a Wednesday night, but I was also taking hard classes and testifying to the Vermont legislature. Yes, I had to pull an all-nighter, but I still made it to my 9L.
At Dartmouth, there seems to be a silent contest of which student can best embody the “work hard, play hard” mentality. However, if it were now time to pick a winner, I can’t say I would have even come close.
Last term, I had lots of plans. With a newly purchased notebook and a redownloaded Headspace, I began winter quarter with lofty vows to start journaling, meditating and running again. I enjoyed my classes and extracurriculars and felt excited to be in a Greek house. At the same time, however, I attended sorority meetings then couldn’t finish reading assignments. I spent hours researching in the library then forgot about my lunch plans with friends.
The quarter system made the term feel so fast that there were seemingly not enough hours in the day to consider my long-term goals. It was a strange dichotomy: As I continued to add more things that I loved to my life, I had to accept less from myself.
Of course, I didn’t want to be the type of person who doesn’t answer texts, or misses friends’ birthday parties because they’re too busy studying – but that’s who I was becoming. Like most people at Dartmouth, I strove to be a high achieving student with many commitments, both academic and social. Yet, most of the time, I could barely achieve any of these things, and I felt mediocre in every sense of the word.
Worst of all, I neglected a lot of things that made me happy. Now that the winter term has concluded, I can embarrassingly admit that I did not ski, ice skate, Polar Plunge or attend the annual snowball fight. I did not see my friends nearly enough and barely ran. Sadly, non school-related activities, even the ones that brought me joy, were not at the top of my list last winter. As I added more commitments to my schedule, I had to prioritize.
This, however, begs the question: Are my priorities in line? College is certainly about learning, but is that only in an academic sense? I want to make mistakes. I want to do silly things that could only happen at a college in the woods, while getting intimidatingly good at pong. I want to graduate and do something important after college. But at the same time, I’m a total perfectionist and want to do everything well with my whole being. How can I rank and prioritize such different aspects of my life when they seem too different to compare?
I have always struggled with saying no. Not only am I indecisive, but I also never want to pass up an opportunity. Yet, at a place like Dartmouth, there are almost too many incredible opportunities and moments to share with classmates and friends.
At the same time, saying no to things is good sometimes. There will always be another darty to attend, job to apply for, or interesting class to take. With the little free time we have here — and being the nerds yet social butterflies that so many of us are — it’s difficult to decide what is important.
Last term, I tried to capitalize on too many experiences and pursued unsustainable goals. But, in doing so, I learned to prioritize what brings me fulfillment and makes me a better friend, student and person. I may still miss a night out or a lunch with friends, but I aim to be decisive and confident in my choices instead of floating between different possibilities. I cannot do it all, and if that means my life sounds boring to the typical “work hard, play hard” Dartmouth student, so be it.