Archive for the ‘About College’ Category

Life of a Juggler

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

My life is the life a juggler. Work, school, motherhood, and some kind of social life (how I do not know). I have a handful of clients, two of which I am fully committed to for over 20 hours each a week. In addition, I am taking four classes this semester, my last, including a Spanish and Chemistry class. Two kids, a boyfriend, dog, and a home to care for are also priorities. I wake up each day unsure of how I will juggle all of this and not fall flat on my face. I am dedicated and persistent, that is all I can sum it up to. I want nothing more than to squeeze time in to write everyday, but it gets shoved aside for more important tasks. It is frustrating, but I know that one day I will accomplish this as well, the writing ball will be thrown up into the air with the rest and I will be able to keep it up in the air.

Today I have work to do for a few clients, a Spanish quiz, an English paper, a trip to the doctor for a checkup, and a million other errands and chores to complete.  I have reading assignments to do while on the train, the only time I can manage to get those done as I pour over my textbooks with a highlighter as the subway car rocks me to and fro.  My daughter has state tests coming up for middle school, which she is nervous about and is practicing endlessly for.  My boyfriend is also in college full-time in addition to his 40 hours per week at work,  he is as busy as me most days and we try to carve out a few sleepy moments to catch up before we fall asleep each night.  Life is hard, but it is also interesting everyday.  I try not to become overwhelmed with the sheer busyness of it all and most days I succeed.

Best thing to happen so far today?  A cup of coffee from my favorite cafe Norma’s.  Hope my Spanish quiz goes as well!

College Students vs. Time Management

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It is Friday night and after an extremely busy week taking care of my children, working and attending college full-time I begin to panic.  I sign into my online class and I realize that I forgot to do one of my assignments, an essay which requires reading a chapter and posting by midnight looms before me.  My eight-year old needs me to help her with her homework and my sixteen year old is whining about dinner. I glance at the time, my heart is pounding.  Life becomes a time squeeze, running from one obligation to the next.

Most college students struggle with responsibilities and it is often due to lack of time management.   College students must attempt to achieve their goals whilst struggling with life responsibilities, children, punctuality, distractions and procrastination. With these pressures, balancing our time to truly meet our needs and reducing the inevitable stress that follows is a juggling act indeed.

Many students, burdened with responsibilities, fight to beat the clock. Stacyann Brower, a mother of two and a grad student at LIU said, “My children do not allow me to get my work done and if I wait until they are asleep I am too tired to tackle it.”  Stacyann also spends a lot of time assisting her children with their schoolwork and shuttling them around to activities. Organizing classes around our lifestyles in a realistic way may help reduce the stress we feel and help us to succeed with our present situation.  For example if your child is having trouble at school, it would be helpful to reduce the number of classes you take or find a tutor.

Mia Baker, a more traditional college student at a college in Vermont, works at the dining hall once a week in addition to making time for friends.  Mia said, “I personally try and get all my work done and I do not have to stress about it.” Many college students face a variety of outside responsibilities that demand their attention, full-time and part-time jobs, long commutes, social obligations and families.  Often time management is the only means of balancing their lives.

Keeping track of homework, reading assignments and test dates in a planner can be a crucial step in staying organized.  Prioritizing schoolwork and focusing on ultimate goals are important tools when implementing a routine.  Choosing to focus on school, work and children leave little time to do much else, it is important to understand this when committing to classes. Verity Baker said, “I have a calendar for work and school, as well as one for homework.”

Study habits and setting aside time for assignments can be difficult as the semester moves along.  Mia found this strategy useful, “Sometimes I feel overwhelmed but I just take everything one step at a time and calmly go through the things that need to get done.  Once they are done though, it feels like there is a weight off my shoulders.”

Some students felt that the assignments professors gave were fair; however they often found conflicts with the time they needed to devote to other activities.  Multi-tasking may be a technique that can help some to catch up, such as reading on the subway while commuting to work.

When asked if they were often late or unprepared at school, many students felt they couldn’t keep themselves on track with their assignments.  Stacyann remembers when she was an undergraduate, “…I did my homework in the car just before class or at down-time during work.” Finding a quiet area and keeping books in one place can assist students in keeping track of workload and handing assignments in on time.  Careful preparation, planning and avoiding procrastination can help to alleviate tardiness.

Stacyann feels that although she is never late she works very hard to meet deadlines in her grad classes, “I feel like I am always doing it at the eleventh hour because there is just not enough time with two kids, a house to run, a husband, etc.”   Prioritizing schoolwork, leaving time to handle unexpected obstacles, and keeping track of due dates is an important part of being a successful college student.

“I’m just going to check Facebook for a minute.”  Texts messages, emails and tweets flow to and fro.  A friend comes over and tells you about a wicked party going on down the hall.  Before we know it, hours have passed and the work we planned to do isn’t done.  Distractions, they are everywhere, if you can name all the people on Jersey Shore but not the digestive system for your biology class, then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time.  Verity said, “Facebook is definitely a culprit…but I also like to compulsively clean my room in order to procrastinate.”

Daniel also said, “Yes Facebook, friends, texting and the internet easily take up my attention and eats all my time.”  Monitoring your time when distracted is an important tool when focusing on what needs to be accomplished.  Using a timer may be helpful in order to maintain focus.

Perhaps the most important question of all is how time affects student performance and quality of lifestyle.  Often we will put aside something or give up early on, without pushing through.  We often become frustrated when our plans haven’t turned out as we wanted.  Do you feel that because of time management issues you are unable to achieve what you set out to do?

Verity said, “Definitely! Unfortunately I have been a poor time manager since middle school so I don’t know if there’s much hope for me…”

“Yep, I feel that I won’t be able to achieve my goals since I don’t have any sort of time management in place.” worried Daniel.

Stacyann commented, “Not really.  Luckily I work well under pressure.”

Mia answered, “All the time, it’s really bad.  I need to learn some time management skills ASAP!”

It is apparent that many college students are not sure how to organize their time set up and follow a routine, and or where to seek help.  Many colleges have onsite counseling which help students with personal issues.  There are also clubs and workshops available that allow students to focus on their goals and alleviate stress by being socially involved.  Self-help books, internet resources and chats with friends can be useful.  In addition, it is important to discuss concerns with your family or friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Finally, be mindful of the task at hand rather than always multi-tasking will help with focus issues.  Remember to take time to relax, it will help to reenergize mind and spirit, whether it’s yoga, a night out or even a ferocious game of monopoly against a competitive eight year old!

Mommy Guilt

Friday, May 21st, 2010

My life has a  three dimensional essence in the last couple of weeks.  Ever since being accepted to an intensive summer program by Vassar College, I have suffered a range of emotions from overwhelming panic to euphoric excitement.  Everything in my life is now planned according to three things, before I leave for Vassar, the five weeks I will spend there and after I return home.  My children’s lives are planned according to this sudden turn of events as well.  My sister and brother will care for them while I am away.

I recently met some of the students that will join me on this academic adventure, all young and intelligent.  I also met students that have attended the program in the past.  I understand this is an Ivy League school, although I had never heard of this school before I applied.  I grasp the underlining meaning of the opportunity that has been set before me and how lucky I am to be invited to participate with thirty or so other students this summer.  I am aware of the rigorous road set out for me when I arrive, days filled with study, an intellectual boot camp of sorts. 

What makes it different is I am thirty-five years old.  I am a single mother.  I wonder who am I to think I can join this group of fresh young minds.  I am gripped with panic over being away from my kids for so long.  Mommy guilt floats around my heart and head like some evil little imaginary imp, waiting patiently for me to break down and stay home with my kids.  How will the little world I created move along without me here to guide it and if it can run smoothly without me; well what worth do I have in the big scheme of everything?  Of course, it is summer and my children’s crazy schedule will quiet like the summer nights soon to be embarked upon. I won’t be there to make the perfect pb&j sandwich, to kiss skinnned knees or be the driving force to awaken my son from the grips of teenage slumber.  Yet I am sure they will be fine…

Then I think about my boyfriend, we have never been apart this long in our almost three year relationship. My female brain blinks with envy and anxiety about the gorgeous new woman that will magically enter the room and lure him away from me.  Why do we allow dramatic classic film (by this I mean black and white between the 1930s and 1940s) images to conjure up ridiculous romantic scenarios?  Or is that just me?  To add to that, why are we always the mousy girl in the background left for the voluptuous woman in the red dress, leaning against a grand piano, singing in a sultry voice?  Again, I am sure he will be fine and will miss me as the weeks pass. 

I am anxious most of all, of keeping up with the assignments and spending five weeks with strangers that are sure to become my newfound friends.  All of us thrown into an amazing setting and supportive environment.  Anxiety will linger with me until it’s time to depart and I will eventually embrace it and shift that raw energy to my academic aspirations.  However, I wonder if the mommy guilt will remain…

Three more weeks

Friday, April 30th, 2010

                  Three more weeks of school.  I am relieved that another semester will be complete, as I struggle to complete my remaining assignments.  I am relieved that perhaps when the three weeks are done, that I can focus on my kids more and finally start spring cleaning.  Tomorrow my son takes his SATs, and it dawns on me that my son is almost an adult, he is only two and half years away from being the same age as I was when I had him.  Nineteen years old.  It is a surreal notion. 

                  Today I went shopping for summer clothes for my daughter after noticing that last year’s shorts had “hoochie mama” written all over them.  It was a remarkable visit to the store, she wanted to pick out her own clothes, which I happily gave in to as we were in Children’s Place and there was little to object to.  The other awakening moment was that she had somehow, when I wasn’t looking, grew into a size 10.  My baby is going to be a decade old in a year and a half. 

                I find myself attending college, an endeavor that I “should” have done almost two decades ago.  I have one child almost two decades old and another half that.  This I find surreal as well.  Is it like this for most teenage mothers?  I spent so much of his life wondering how we would survive to eighteen, it’s strange, now I wonder how I will survive eighteen and beyond.  I am not ready to be the back seat driver to a new adult. I will no longer make decisions that are negotiable but concrete, my ultimate outcome, a carefully balanced and thought through decision.  I have begun to practice this inevitable consequence of time, months that turn into years suddenly, as one awakens each day.  I begin to slowly dispense freedom and control to him, nudging the knowledge that he will make mistakes along the way.  I have to learn to trust in ways that I never anticipated. 

                Ultimately, it will occur, whether we are ready or not.  I am grateful that I have a decade for my daughter to be in the same place, but am painfully aware that in reality I have less time with her.  That seventh grade will welcome the infamous years of mother-daughter struggle of the teen years hasn’t escaped my consciousness. 

                In the end the windows, who am I kidding, the dirty dishes and the scattered clothes and toys on the floor, the dust that is breeding on my furniture and the constant pressure to put it all back into place, becomes less important when I begin to think about decades.  In a half a decade I will earn a bachelors degree, my son will do the same, and my daughter will be beginning high school. 

                It is the midst of achieving these milestones, which life happens, in the end becoming the memories that we look back on and smile.  Even while enduring three more weeks of school.

My First Writing Experience

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

                     Recently, in my creative writing course at school I was asked to write a story about my first writing experience.  The exercise invoked feelings that I had long pushed away in order to raise my children.  The dream of writing was such a strong desire when I was little girl.  While other children dreamed of becoming firefighters, baseball players and princesses, I dreamt of becoming a writer.  I wanted to write these wonderful stories where one could experience a different world, life or activity.  A story allowed me to soar away to wonderful places that I knew I may never visit.  In fourth grade my teacher, Mrs. Reese, allowed us to take our spelling words and make a story with them, instead of the boring meaningless sentences we normally had to construct.  We then, I think it was Fridays had to read them in front of the class. I was a nervous child, but I was courageous when I told my stories.     

My Spelling Stories

            Butterflies swarm in my nine-year old belly.  The hard wooden school desk chair beneath me suddenly feels cumbersome.  I smooth down the page in my black marble composition notebook, my words splatter across it in little girl hand.  The pungent smell of cafeteria food assaults the air. Mrs. Reese is about to call on another student, hands fly frantically in the air, “ooh ooh me, me!” echoes through the decorated classroom, bright alphabet letters and fourth grade drawings displayed on the walls.  I pray that the teacher doesn’t call on me.

            “Marc, please come to the front of the classroom and read your story.” she instructs. 

              Then when Marc is done a few children raise their hands, one little pigtailed girl calls out, “Let Jemile read next, we want to hear what happens next.” 

               Mrs. Reese looks over to me, her eyes grazing just above her heavy rimmed glasses; her curly brunette wig is slightly askew today, “Are you ready Jemile?” 

                I whisper, “Yes Mrs. Reese.” 

                This is what occurs every week, we take our spelling words and on Thursday we are told to take them and make a story with them.  My stories are serial, about a bear family, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, brother and sister Bear.  In my stories, my bear family does things my family would never do; they go camping, on vacations, they play games together and go to the beach.  They are also nice to each other and when the kids do something wrong the parents scold instead of hitting.  They are how I wish my family really was, like Laura Ingalls’s family in the Little House on the Prairie books I love to read so much. 

                   I walk up to the front of the cozy yet old classroom in my school, P.S. 176.  This is a new school, I used to go to P.S. 199, and the children still make me nervous although I have made many new friends.  My classmates are fidgeting in their seats, the monotony of the school day already falling upon their spirits.  My hands are shaking; a slight sound emerges from the paper crinkling within my tiny hands.  My shoes make a small squeaking sound as I rub them nervously in small circles on the white linoleum tiled floor.  I remove the strands of hair from my mouth that always seem to bother everyone, kids always asking me, “Why do you chew your hair?  That’s so weird, you’re a freak.”  However, now they want me to read, I can see they are in suspense as they gaze towards me anticipating what will happen next to brother and sister Bear, last week Papa Bear announced that they were going to get a pet and it would be a surprise.  Some of the kids asked me all week, what kind of pet would it be a dog, a cat, or a stupid boring goldfish.  I love writing, I hate speaking in front of the class.  Eyes stare at me, impatient and curious.  I read.

tired

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

The weekend is approaching faster than I realized.  I have one more big paper to complete by tomorrow morning and some reading to do.  The past eight weeks, the first half of spring semester has passed by me with the speed of a running animal chasing prey.  I have written so much and learned even more.  The fatigue that college casts on my body is deafening.  I am tired inside and out from the constant expectation.  My sore feet groan, loud and angry.  The muscle right between my shoulder and spine is tight like a random string that finds its way around a towel in the dryer.  One can pull for a long time, but it will loosen when it is unraveled slowly.  My legs feel cramped and sleepiness resides in my bones waiting patiently for the time to rest.  My breasts hate my bra.  My eyes beg to spit these contacts out.  My neck stiffens and is bent like a used slinky toy.  It is my mind that is most tired, so tired there is no metaphor, there is no word, there is only the desire to sleep.  Sleep in my sleep.  I will dream during this sleepy sleep.  My mind cries out to stop all the information it has swallowed.  I say, “Just one more bite, then it will be done.”

Frazzled week

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

                      It is approaching 1am on a Monday night.  I am finished with my assignments for today, many others loom before me.  So much reading, I wonder how I will plow through it.  Then the writing, not the kind I enjoy doing, but the other.  I love going to college, I love writing papers, I love reading. 

                Sometimes it is difficult to juggle my life with kids, school, boyfriend, work, etc.  Sometimes I have no time to write, really who am I kidding?  I never have time to write.  I want to go see my favorite local band, Catalyst for over a year now.  Have I made it there?  No.  There is always something else to do first.  I want to roam around a museum, quiet and serene.  I wish I could travel someplace exotic, hell I wish I could ride the Chinese bus to Boston for the weekend for $30.  I want to get a really good haircut.  I want to see my friends more often.  

                  What to do with the four days a month that I have free?  I have school on two days, Saturday mornings.  Assignments are due by Friday night.  Oh, man parent-teacher meetings on Friday afternoon.  Do I miss my daughter’s basketball playoffs?  Guilt slinks up inside me, I wonder if she will be upset if I don’t show up. 

                This is my world, week after week.  Sometimes I get a weekday night as well, usually Thursday.  Then I spend the time with my boyfriend, because when else can I?  So I count the days left, the days to, the days from and the days during.  I fantasize about buses and palm trees.  I wish for carefree summer mornings, with nothing to do but just be. 

                Poof.  It’s over, I am back to being Mommy all the time. I’m there in the middle of the night when she wakes from a nightmare.  The whining, the sibling bickering, the activities and running around.  I run after a schedule full of homework for three, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and more.  I am back to hanging out laughing with them, baking cupcakes and sharing our lives.  I love them, but I need balance between both.  A yearning never fulfilled.  So I run from place to place, chore to chore and swim until I can float a bit, a moment, a weekend.