Thanks to the recent Skirball fires, school was cancelled, including the last day of the quarter for some classes. I thought that I was going to be productive with the time that I gained, motivated by the impending doom of finals, but that wasn’t the case. I felt so much inertia—during the 1.5 days without school, I didn’t walk down the hill or go to campus AT ALL, and took twice as long to do a single homework assignment. Even though I was in my room, I didn’t run my printer at all.

RescueTime My work effectiveness, as measured by RescueTime.

Finding “joy” in college?

In high school, the mentality of most students I asociated with was to do as many things as possible: more advanced placement classes, more clubs, more leadership positions. Self improvement and campus involvement wasn’t just for building character and exploring, but more for building a resume.

Most of my current friends have grown out of that mentality, due in part to the “specialization” brought on by a major, instead choosing to focus on one club and their major’s core curriculum. For me, though, I constantly have trouble knowing what I want to do. There’s so many different careers to explore! With so many options, I have to avoid spreading myself too thin. I have the privilege of being a few classes ahead in my major, so I have the option of taking either more electives in mechanical engineering, delving more into my tech breadth (Engineering Math as of 2017-12-18), or taking a completely different minor (GIS is calling!) I constantly have FOMO—the fear of missing out—when it comes to academics, even though the engineering curriculum is designed not so much that one learns everything one needs to know, but one learns how to learn.

One book I kept hearing about throughout the quarter was The Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up (Marie Kondo). While I’ve never read the book, this quote seemed to speak to me:

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

I wasn’t dealing with “stuff”, though my cluttered desk could use some cleaning. Rather, I was dealing with verbs: projects I was working on, classes I was studying for, and my own expectations I had to fulfill. At one point last quarter, I was working so much and making so little progress that I no longer felt joy in what I was doing. This wasn’t a one-time thing; rather, it was a perpetual fog that I was living. My brain started fantasizing. (I say “my brain” because I felt disassociated from what I was doing on a regular basis.) One day, I wanted to be a sociologist. The next, a musician, busking at the beach. Another aspect of escapism was just physically leaving campus. After spending more than three weeks within the bubble of campus, I was tired of my routine. Even though I hadn’t run more than three miles at a time, I ran to Santa Monica, where I wandered around the pier and people watched. Two weeks later, before Thanksgiving, I did it again. Each time, I had about an hour to step back and mull over my life (and listen to podcasts, like 99% Invisible!). And each time, it seemed like my brain would be able to process things differently, and reassure itself that everything would work itself out.

Future: goals for winter quarter and beyond

Academics: resist the temptation to take more than four classes during winter quarter, and three during spring. Raise my major GPA.

Brain: get better at listening and responding accordingly. I’ll have to realistically evaluate my desire to do everything.

Personal projects: finish printing the rest of the components of my skates, then work on integrating a hub motor.

Mental health: Go out and adventure!