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Limits: the Hardest Lesson I’ve Had to Learn

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link   All Posts
 Jessie Lukasik Normally I would write my blog near the beginning of the month – and normally, I would rush to share all my excitement following a big race or athletic event. So, what happened this month? I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, had the time of my life, crushed my goal time by almost 20 minutes, and came back to school absolutely giddy with excitement. Why didn’t I write then? Two weeks later, I ran Tough Mudder – a 12-mile obstacle course in the freezing cold and mud – with five of my best friends and, again, was left beside myself with glee. Why didn’t I write then?

Why am I waiting until now to sit down and crank out a quick little blog post? Time constraints - for the first time since I’ve been at the Academy (really, for the first time ever), I’ve truly learned what it means to not have a minute to spare.

3/c fall semester has been unlike anything I would have expected – I’ve begun to grow nostalgic for the relative ease of last year! Gone are the days of bracing up, squaring meals, and taking out trash, but in the place of the endless, irritating menial tasks designated to 4/c have come a whole new wave of work and responsibilities. Suddenly, the academic load is both fuller and more challenging. Suddenly, I must write not only my own CER, but one for each of my 4/c as well. Suddenly, I have more jobs and managerial tasks within my division. The authority vested in me has increased, even if just slightly, and with that comes a new set of tasks to complete. I knew, theoretically, that this would happen – it’s a natural part of the Academy training. But it was difficult to predict precisely how it would affect my day-to-day life until now.

What’s more, the graduation from 4/c year to 3/c year gives birth to a sense of confidence unlike anything most of us have ever felt before – now that we know this school, we know our place, and we know our own abilities, we are far more certain of our abilities to accomplish all we must do, and still have the time to do the things we want to do. And so, as 3/c, we become more eager to join new activities, take on new tasks, try to do more than we did before.

This year, I suddenly found myself signed up for not only Glee Club, Triathlon Team, and this blog program but a host of other activities. Suddenly, I’m spending hours each week serving as a Peer Tutor, and attending tutor trainings. Suddenly, I’m going to weekly Honors Colloquium meetings and doing work toward starting a Directed Studies course and applying for scholarships for graduate school. Suddenly, I’m attending lectures and seminars with the Women’s Leadership Council, striving to learn what I need to know to ease my transition into a Coast Guard career a couple years from now.

Yet, even as I add on more things, the other activities I’ve grown so fond of persist – Glee Club practices, concerts, and events; races, morning practices, and team meetings for triathlon and running club; the required CS/IS hours we have to do each semester. And these activities build upon themselves as my time investment in them increases. I may now attend the occasional Fairwinds performance in addition to regular Glee Club performances. Now that I’ve completed a marathon, I’ve taken the next big step and signed up for an Ironman – a 140.6 mile race next November. I get so eager so easily – once I know what I can do, I want to try to do more.

It’s all “fine and well and good”, striving for excellence, pushing yourself, getting involved in your school. I’ve thrived on it for the past four months. But at a certain point, the madness has to cease. When you wear yourself down to 4 hours of sleep per night because you’re constantly on the go, something has to stop. I’ve hit that point – I’ve past my limits.

Thankfully, I’ve “caught myself” before I fell into a death spiral, before my grades started to slip. I’ve been testing my limits, but by now my body has told me “enough is enough.” It’s time to cut back. It may be tempting to try to do everything, but even for a USCGA cadet, it’s not quite possible.

So, that’s why I’m so late in writing my blog this month – I’ve drowned myself in activity, and I’ve learned my lesson. Going forward, I’ll try to “cut back” a little bit on the flurry of constant “stuff” to do and just appreciate the value of some down time.

Yet, I have to say, I’m glad I learned this lesson the hard way – I never “pegged the meter” in testing myself. Until I’d pushed myself past my limits, I never actually knew what my limits actually were. I now know what sorts of energy and fortitude the Academy life and training can produce. I know just how much I can do – now, I just need to be a little more sensible about doing it!

More about Jessie.