Deciding How to Spend My Time

By Chris Meng ’23

My first semester at Pomona College finished not too long ago, and it absolutely flew by. I realized that there are some small but significant distinctions between college and high school. For example, there is no detention for being late. Nobody will chase you around to turn in your work, go eat food or even get out of bed. Professors might send a concerned email if you’re absent for more than a few classes. However, ultimately, the responsibility is on the student to decide if they show up to class or more generally, take care of themselves. Time is different in college — you decide how you want to invest it. And I learned a lot in the process of becoming responsible for my own time.

Chris sitting in chair with hoodie zipped up, half-covering his faceTime is finite, which feels especially salient in college when you are surrounded by your friends and you can do anything that you want to. I was forced to ask myself how I wanted to utilize my time. The small nature of the Pomona community is conducive to spontaneous adventures and chats with fellow Sagehens. I can guarantee that at some point, you will be faced with the decision of whether you should stay in and finish some work or spend time with friends. There is so much to do, but you can’t do everything, unfortunately.

Looking back on the choices that I made everyday, I intentionally balanced self-care and my social life with academics. The transition to college is challenging, even with sponsor groups and Orientation Adventure at Pomona. Self-care, especially your first semester, is critical. For me, that looks like sleeping. I knew that I needed to prioritize getting eight hours of sleep every night for me to function properly. I generally went to sleep around 11 on weekdays and woke up at 7 or 8 the next morning. Knowing my high-maintenance sleep needs, I managed my time well and even when the semester got busier, I never chose homework or studying over sufficient sleep. Consequently, I had more energy during the day to get my work done and savor the good moments with friends and in class.

Chris and a friendHowever, another aspect of my self-care is spending quality time and having intimate conversations with my friends. Even during my busier days, I would never say no to a call with my friends from home. The night before my psychology midterm, a friend asked if I wanted to study together. I hadn’t seen him for awhile, so I chose to spend time with him despite the impending exam. On a Thursday evening towards the end of the semester, I got dinner with a classmate for the first time, and we immediately connected. Despite having a meeting at 7, I decided that I didn’t want to interrupt our beautiful conversation and was late to my meeting. Investing energy into my social needs helped me transition to college and feel more connected in a new environment where I didn’t know anybody.

The culture among the student body prioritizes self-care. It is always encouraged to choose your mental wellbeing over anything else. Like I did with sleep and friends, there aren’t any real repercussions for deciding to invest more of my time in those buckets or whatever buckets you may choose. For example, I had a class session on a Sunday evening. However, I was feeling very anxious for a variety of reasons, and I ultimately decided it was more beneficial for me to stay in for the evening. Little decisions to take care of my mental health kept things in perspective for me and largely prevented me from feeling overwhelmed by school.

As I transition to a new semester, I’m evaluating how I want to spend my time again as my goals and priorities change and new opportunities emerge. While I am here to learn as much as I can, I hope I will always remember that it is the people that will make my experience here special. It’s why I chose to come to a small college, and at Pomona, I can choose to spend my time to reflect what I value.