A Regrettable Sacrifice
Senior Compass Series
Last night I stayed up sick until 6 a.m. By 8 a.m., I settled into work at my internship with a backpack under my desk and bags under my eyes.
No surprise there. I handed in my thesis last week and I am graduating next month. At this point in the semester, I always find myself sacrificing health to achieve other goals. My hectic class and work schedule does not accommodate regular meals, and my workload and perfectionism does not allow for the physician-recommended amount of sleep. This neglect of my well-being is not ideal, but I manage.
However, during times of extreme stress, the sacrifices become more pronounced. I substitute coffee for sleep and productivity for sanity. Inevitably, my body breaks when I fail to maintain my health.
My most notable failure here was repeatedly sacrificing my own health to achieve a short-term goal. Georgetown is a wonderful place with a debilitating stress culture.
These sacrifices have benefits. I have published literary magazines, ran budget summits and organized over 30 student events. Most importantly, through this work I have gained awe-inspiring mentors and developed incredible friendships. My successes motivated me to overexert myself to exhaustion.
Now, in my last month as an undergraduate, I am experiencing stress-related symptoms of a kidney illness that brought me to the emergency room during my first month at Georgetown University.
During that same semester, the entire Georgetown community wrestled with the passing of Andrea Jaime, who, upon returning for her sophomore year in fall 2014, contracted meningitis and died. Her death was sudden and shocking. Her disease was incredibly rare, and there was nothing anyone could do to help. One day she fell ill, and the next she was gone.
The entire campus was devastated. I cannot fathom the loss her family and friends experienced. I never met her, but her death has profoundly affected me.
I will never know why I walked out of the ER, healed, and she did not.
When my body does break, it forces me to a stop. I miss classes, forgo events and delegate my leadership responsibilities to others. I feel like a failure, but not because of the forced hiatus from my responsibilities.
Whenever I get sick, I wonder: if my body failed completely — if I died right now — would I be content with the life I have lived?
As a freshman, I answered “no.” I had not accomplished the goals I envisioned or visited the places I dreamed of.
Four years later, I still wouldn’t be content if I died on the spot, but for different reasons. I still haven’t accomplished my life goals in the last four years — they are designed to take a while — but I have made measurable progress towards them. More importantly though, I am now more satisfied in the strength of my relationships.
I have slowly learned that the best way to take care of yourself is to surround yourself with people who are invested in your well-being.
When I got sick as a freshman, no one noticed. I asked a girl in my first-week-of-freshman year herd to walk me to the health center. She declined and went to the dining hall instead. I did a long stint in the hospital, but it was weeks before anyone noticed that I still had not returned to New South 4.
Today, I saw the same doctor whom I met back then for the same health issue. This time, one friend accompanied me and many others checked in remotely.
I call that progress.
Friendships, like all relationships, take work, and I have learned the value in finding friends who care about me. I became much happier when I stopped trying to please everyone. I learned to gently let go of people who drained me. But letting go of bad friends isn’t a failure; it’s a choice to prioritize your well-being.
I failed worst when I neglected myself. I failed every time I sacrificed sleep for school. When I over-exhausted myself with busyness, I failed to meet my basic needs.
My advice is to take care of yourself. Find people who care about you and your well-being. Develop relationships with professors who care about you as a whole person. Limit yourself to extracurriculars that give you purpose. Learn to say no. Learn to say goodbye. Learn to say goodnight.
I’m trying to follow my own advice.
So, I’m graduating in May and I don’t have a job yet. What are my next steps?
First, I’ll nap.
Regina Andreoni is a senior in the College. This is the first installment in the Senior Compass Series.