Don’t let the little things affect you. Pay attention to the details. Remember the big picture.
Growing up, we hear a multitude of conflicting advice, one of the biggest regarding the kind of mentality we should have about things. Parents may tell us to not sweat the little things. Teachers tell us to pay attention to small details when we’re writing our essays or reading a book. How do we know just how big our picture on life should be? What gets to be included and what doesn’t? How do we make sure that we don’t stay zoomed in for too long or keep looking from too far away?
I struggled with finding my balance during junior year. The smallest assignments and most frivolous tasks overwhelmed my brain, and I got caught up in the little tasks I did more than the big picture for why I was doing them. As a result, I often felt trapped and distant from the real world because it felt as though the world outside my school had disappeared completely. I partly blame the residential school which I attend for this. Don’t get me wrong, I love IMSA. But there are times where students get stuck in an “IMSA bubble” and forget all that exists outside of the homework, extracurriculars, and sports. We lose touch with the life that we have outside, and our picture is narrowed to just the school.
Doing so hurts us more than helps because every assignment has the power to stress us out. Nothing is worse than ignorance in this world, but when a chemistry lab or English paper takes the most priority in your head, you automatically ignore what is happening in the rest of the world or the rest of your life.
I’ll admit that there were days where I didn’t even think about, much less call, my parents because I was too engrossed in my work. I didn’t even open the e-mails regarding news updates which I’d received, and I had absolutely no clue what was going on in the real world with politics, America’s relationship with Korea, or even the local news in Chicago. It’s sad to think about, but it was my reality.
Coming out of junior year, I realized how badly I’d lost sight of the bigger picture. Not every assignment that I was putting my blood and tears into was worth it, and only about half of them played a role in the bigger picture. I don’t regret the work or time I put into everything, but I do wish I had done some of those assignments in a more stress-free manner, living my life a little more. I wish I had prioritized other assignments, which may have not been for school, but which played a role in my bigger picture instead.
In retrospect, it’s easy for me to claim that I wish I had something a specific way or changed my mindset, but there’s also a reason for why I didn't. I was scared about what would happen if I didn’t put my 110% into every assignment, including the most frivolous, daily homework assignments for a class such as Spanish. The fear led me to overworking my body and feeling sad because I wasn’t doing what I loved; in essence, it broke me.
I understand now that there needs to be a balance in our lives. The little assignments do matter, but only if they play a role in the bigger picture. And sometimes, we don’t know if the assignment will exactly play a role, which is when we need to use our own judgement. Yes, sometimes we will make a mistake, but in that case, we’ll learn, and more often than not, we will be right.
As my senior year comes upon me, I look at it with fresh eyes. I’m not going to let every assignment stress me out. Before I choose to stay up until 4 am working on something, I’m going to decide whether it factors into my bigger picture or not. If it isn’t important to the life I want, I’m only going to do my best in the most efficient way; I’m going to let go of my perfectionism for it. And as a replacement, I’m going to put the remainder of my time into something that does fit into my future life.
The person you want to be and the life you want to have includes you learning a lot right now, but it doesn’t have to have you learning everything; the life you want shouldn’t have you overworking yourself right now. Be determined to live and thrive so you can have the life you want and enjoy the journey.