Note: After four college years of stretching myself way too far and burning myself out from overwhelming busyness, I am ready to spend the year living in simple, love-filled ways. In August 2016 after my graduation from West Chester University, I will be leaving, God willing, for an 11-month mission trip to 11 different countries to serve the needs in each area. The trip is called the World Race. I chose areas that scan Africa, Asia, and Central America, with the poverty levels and possible recent natural disasters in mind. I will be living with the locals in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. If you would like to learn more about the trip or what I am doing visit ashleylabella.theworldrace.org. Thank you! –Ashley
It is 7:13 a.m. I did not get to bed last night until 2:00 a.m., because similar to most nights, I cannot turn my brain off. It is Saturday, meaning that if I felt so inclined to, I could sleep in until dinner time. I crave to go back to bed, but my mind is already wired, spitting out dozens of thoughts on what has to get done, fully preventing me from falling back into my deep sleep. Aside from the fact that I really miss my sleep, these unstable sleep patterns brought up another realization that has caused me to reflect on how I go about living my life.
A reflection of the daily week in the life of Ashley: 1. I consider my free time to be the 10 hours I spend in my pajamas doing homework and catching up on emails. 2. Walking to class, I am opening texts or emails up at the same time as my podcast or song is playing, rather than listening to them, or let alone just focusing on the beautiful life existing around me away from my screen. 3. I rarely feel anything anymore while watching some of my favorite movies because I am always multitasking; doing work during the film, missing the entire meaning and impact behind the storyline. 4. I attempt to brush my teeth and wash my face consecutively… in an attempt to save time. (In reality, I actually just double the time it would take.. and manage to get soap in my eyes too.) 5. Instead of listening fully in my classes or getting to know the person sitting next to me, many times I pick and choose what I will listen to or who I will talk with, just so I can do other homework in that class. I may or may not be writing this in class as well. 6. I spend more time just organizing how I will approach my work than the time it takes to actually complete the work itself. 7. I have a messy planner, a neat planner, and a to do list that exist mainly to help me sleep at night. 8. I can finish a chapter of a good novel only by coaching myself 100 times to “focus Ashley.”
My reasoning behind these true examples is to show the unhealthy patterns that I know do not exist only in my life. Many people live this way: overwhelmingly busy, constantly saying yes, jumping to the next goal. So many of us live, defining the term “workaholic” in areas that we may not enjoy, or in cases similar to mine, in areas that we love more than anything. The things ruining the quality of our lives can be good things. We can become so overly busy in the pursuit of the American dream or even in the pursuit of living up to the crazy standards that we have set for our own selves, that we forget that we do not actually need to live in this way.
The problem that I see in my weekly habits is not really how busy I make myself, but the fact that I have grown totally accustomed to living this way: planner filled to the max, running from one event to another in a time crunch, so scatterbrained that I can hardly be present in the moment. It scares me that some people never realize that they can break free from this. So what should we do?
I say we should try to live a little more like a World Racer. Focus on someone else’s needs above your own. Visit more places for the first time. Belly-laugh like a child, with a child. Help another person in an unnecessarily kind way, just because. Hear someone else’s life story and rather than listening to respond, listen just to listen. Sit in silence and watch the life that exists around you.
Just like the number three pattern above, if we continue to multitask our lives away, we may miss the entire beautiful meaning that lies behind the storyline in our own lives. We would have a beautifully illustrated front cover, but the words inside would be meaningless.
I want to live in such a way that by the day’s end I will not be mentally burnt out, but will be 100 percent physically exhausted from living the day to its absolute fullest potential from sunrise to sundown. This is what I strive to do today, tomorrow, during the Race and after the Race. I hope you do the same.
Ashley LaBella is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies. She can be reached at AL816895@wcupa.edu.