On the 31st of January, at approximately 11:00am, I returned to Oberlin after going home to New Zealand for Christmas and to Seattle for Circus School.
Everything felt the same, but everything felt different, too.
See, after having been removed from Oberlin for a while and then suddenly being back, I came to a few realisations about myself and what I need to do to be truly happy at this place:
I need to be doing physical things regularly.
On my glorious return, I mostly caught up with friends and worried about classes - and none of my physical activities had started yet, so I didn't do any exercise until Wednesday.
But after a month of doing five hours of circus a day, five days a week, my body went into some sort of withdrawal. I felt slow, sluggish, and couldn't really think as clearly as I could before. I overstressed about figuring out my classes, textbooks, money, taxes, financial aid, and how I was going to schedule this semester.
Then, I went and did some Circus, and the day after some Climbing.
It was like a cloud had been lifted. I could think again, and I felt like I could tackle everything I had been worried about before.
There's really two sides, I think, to why my chosen fields of physical endeavour do wonders for me mentally. On one hand, it provides a great stress-relieving break from the world, and a context in which I can continually challenge myself to be better, stronger, and faster - and actually see my improvement in a very tangible way.
I didn't just come to Oberlin to educate myself in one aspect, after all. I came because I strive to be a better person in all aspects, and personal growth isn't just limited to intellectual growth.
And then, on the other hand, there's all the reasons that science will give you for why exercise is so great for you. It gets the heart pumping, releases endorphins, increases energy levels, and reduces risks of every sort of nasty thing that could happen to your body.
Everyone knows that age old adage: Sound body, sound mind.
Once again, I'll refer you, dear reader, to a blog written by Ida, which summarizes this idea more beautifully than I ever could.
In fact, I now realise that my schedule has me doing anywhere between 2 and 1/2 hours to 4 hours of physical activity a day, which I'm pretty happy about.
But this also made me realise something else:
I'm the one responsible for my life.
This might sound dumb and obvious, but sometimes it takes a while to really realise something dumb and obvious.
If I want to be doing circus or climbing every day, then I need to make that happen. I can't just rely on current structures and practice times, or on other people's training regimens. I need to take charge of my personal growth.
But there is something to be said for balance. And if I want to keep up academic and intellectual excellence, then I have to make time for that too.
This leads to another problem, however:
I'm still figuring out where my values and priorities lie.
Does Circus now come before Climbing? What about Swing and Blues Dancing? What even happened to my music?
If you had asked me a year ago what my priorities were, I would have given you a different answer than if you asked me today. And that's OK, I think: as I discover more and develop more as a person, of course, my priorities are going to change.
But I am going to need to put some thought into my priorities because I'm just starting to realise something else:
I can't actually do everything.
I was devastated to find out that the Climbing exco (which I need to take to work at the climbing wall) and the Continuing Blues exco (which I need to take because the seniors teaching it are graduating and I want to learn from them) overlap times. There's also an overlap with an Acro Club time and the Climbing Team training.
I don't know why I thought that everything would just magically work out like it did last semester. I'm just involved with too much at this point for it to be logically possible for me to actually do it all to my satisfaction.
Unless I figure out time travel or how to clone myself, I'm going to have to develop those priorities that I was just talking about.
Even so, knowing how I won't want to drop anything, and considering that I demand excellence of myself in everything I do:
This semester is going to be tough.
Even though it's only been a week of classes, I can already tell that the academic demand is going to be much higher than last semester.
I'm in two lab classes - Computer Science 151, the 'weed out' class for Computer Science majors; and Chemistry 102, the level where Chemistry actually gets serious.
I branched out a bit though, too, for balance sake, and I'm also in an English class called 100 Poems, and Intro to Cultural Anthropology, both of which are a little outside of my standard academic comfort zone - which is good for me.
The real thing that tells me it's going to be harder, though, is that my classes are no longer made up of primarily first-years - in fact, I'd say that in nearly all of them I'm now in the minority.
Somehow, I have to balance my two excos (Continuing Swing and Continuing Blues), Tumbling Club, Acro Club, the Climbing Team, with academics.
I'm going to have to work hard and efficiently. Speaking of working:
I need to be more financially responsible.
After a month in Seattle, and spending so much money on plane tickets, I'm pretty much broke.
I know the broke college student is a tired old trope at this point, but it's a very real, very scary reality.
Not only that, but I need to sort out my FAFSA, and all my tax and healthcare information which is just currently sitting in my drawer in my desk. That reminds me:
My room and desk is probably always going to be a little messy.
And I think I'm OK with that. Being tidy just isn't easy for me and as long as I can stay on top of my work load, I don't care if my desk is a mess or not.
There's good news, though - I finally fixed my New Zealand flag in my room. Last semester it kept falling off the wall because the tape I used somehow didn't work with the fabric.
Notice the hook! (and I'm writing this blog right now on that laptop! Meta!)
I still miss New Zealand, Seattle, and SANCA.
It's hard not to miss different homes every now and then, especially since I only just got to feel at home in Seattle and SANCA before I had to leave.
It's also pretty weird to see that my parents have just sold that little house in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in which I grew up.
But of course, Oberlin has become home too. Leading me to my final point:
It's good to be back.
It was my birthday on the 5th, and I turned 19.
I wasn't expecting much, but my friends surprised me and made the day awesome. I realise now that I've made some best friends while here.
And really, at the end of the day, they're the reason why I'm so happy at Oberlin.