Case

Karen L
Finding A Balance

Ever since I can remember, I have worked to excel in every aspect of my life. I took my drive for perfection to an extreme in high school, attending a competitive all-girls school, becoming involved in numerous organizations, maintaining a high GPA, and working in my spare time. I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion but always managed to convince myself that I was not doing enough. Many times I would experience panic attacks, convinced that any free time in my schedule would ultimately lead to failure in my future. My relationships with my parents had also suffered because of my stress level. When I was accepted to college, I had finally tired of setting impossible goals for myself. I didn't want my life at college to mirror my high school life, where I was constantly stressed, exhausted, and secretly competing with each of my peers.

When I arrived at school, I placed emphasis on my social life rather than academics or extracurriculars. I literally went out every night. I felt lost. And despite earlier promises to myself, I still felt exhausted. Additionally, the panic attacks persisted, becoming worse than ever, now that I had more free time than I had ever had in my life. I began to intern, working as many hours that could possibly fit into my schedule. Eventually, I found myself skipping class so I could find extra time for my internships or extra time to nap after a long night of partying. Naturally, my grades suffered. I managed to convince myself that my academic career wasn't important as long as I maintained a stellar professional career. My wakeup call came my sophomore year when I decided that I wanted to attend law school. I finally realized that my academics were important to my professional career and long-term goals.

I began researching various law schools and the requirements to attend, quickly realizing my GPA was not high enough to get accepted to a competitive school. Committed to my dream of attending law school, I began focusing on my studies. Additionally, I began to take 18 credits each semester so that I could retake several of the classes I had done poorly in, freshman and sophomore year. However, I failed to cut back in other areas of my life. Everything came to a stop the first semester of my junior year. Overwhelmed with an intense course load, the pressure to do well, a busy work schedule, and a packed social calendar, I had a panic attack the night before two exams. I found myself in the same position as I had been in high school and could not cope with the stress. As a result, I walked out of the library, into a cab, and took the first train home to Baltimore, missing both exams the following day. I returned to school several days later, and luckily was able to retake both exams, however, I knew things needed to change.

I finally realized I needed to balance the social, professional, and academic components of my life, and that it was not enough to focus on just two of the three. I cut back on my internship hours and spent less time going out. Although I don't receive credit for the classes I am retaking and didn't graduate early, as I could have done had I been content with my grade, I realize the small sacrifices I need to make in order to achieve my goal. For the past several semesters, I have taken a full course load, maintained an internship, and have been involved in extracurriculars. While I am still very busy (I wouldn't be happy if I wasn't), I have finally found a balance.