By Yasmine Genena
Guest Alumna Writer
From the beginning of my time at Willamette University (WU), I remember receiving the countless emails to apply for the wide range of opportunities and enviously reviewing my fellow students’ email signatures to see how many lines of activities they had listed.
At WU, I was involved with a number of extracurriculars and, from what I hear, that is still the norm. I played on a sports team, acted as a Residential Advisor, had part-time jobs, did a Take a Break trip, was in a sorority and spent a semester studying abroad, all on topof a full course load my senior thesis.
After freshman year I quit the tennis team, under the rationale that there were just too many other interesting things to be doing with my time. I remember being so flattered every time I was asked to apply or join something. Saying “yes” gave me a thrill, knowing that I had a new leadership role or activity I could sink my teeth into.
By sophomore year, as I had hoped, I had the long list on my email signature that I wanted, and with that came stress related symptoms, a drop in my GPA, a full Google calendar and sleep deprivation.
During my fourth semester, I learned something very important. I learned how to say “no” with conviction. This realization changed my life for the better. College is about preparing you for real life, learning your limits and reacting to them. It is a life lesson each of us should carry.
I will never forget the words of an upperclassman I spoke to about my stress level. She said, “sometimes you don’t know your limit until you’ve reached it.” From then on I learned how to say “no” without looking back, and I learned why saying “no” is good for myself and the people around me.
Following my semester abroad, I didn’t commit to anything until I arrived back on campus. I managed my coursework, had time to process my abroad experience, had a two leadership roles and slept a healthy amount. In the semesters that followed I was able to give my academics and extracurriculars my full attention.
Having this short list of meaningful activities and jobs allowed me to fully invest in the experience and develop tangible outcomes and skills rather than stretch myself too thin, as I had done previously.
Not only is it better for your mental and physical health and academic success; it’s quality over the quantity of your commitments. It is more enriching and teaches you how to live a balanced life.
Some might argue that this unbalanced and unhealthy lifestyle is just a phase for WU students and yes, things will change when you don’t have the looming cloud of school work and responsibilities over your head. However, these often just shift to other responsibilities, like paying your bills.
Before you say “yes” to an application form, consider these questions: Can you manage your course work? Can you really give this experience your full attention and effort? Do you genuinely care for what this role entails? If the answer is no to any of these, then you say no.
Your life isn’t about doing favors for people or saying yes to another job on your resume for the sake of it. Your life is about having meaningful experiences for yourself and building your professional path with legitimate outcomes. That doesn’t come in the quantity of your activities, but in the quality of them.