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College Chronicles: On finding joy

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As the next editor-in-chief of The Lumberjack, I am taking over College Chronicles at Flag Live!, as well. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and insight into student life throughout my last semester at Northern Arizona University because I finally feel connected to the Flagstaff community.

Before this year, I was not too involved in activities outside of NAU. I lived on campus my first two years of college and, even though I had a car, it was like I lived in a bubble. Then, the pandemic happened and I studied abroad for a semester. As a senior, I have endeavored to make the most out of my last year in Flagstaff to make up for the others.

Part of expanding my social life has come with better time management that I’ve gained throughout college. Three years ago, I used to feel like I had all my priorities straight, but I didn’t do much besides work and school.

Now, I just finished the best and most stressful semester of college, taking time to enjoy myself between balancing an internship with the most demanding courses for my major. One of the main things I brought home with me from studying abroad was knowing how to make space for joy within a crazy schedule.

I’ve been intentional about doing something enjoyable almost every day — even if it’s small. I often cook with my roommate, hot-tub and hike new trails. I went to Art in the Park, the farmer’s market and county fair for the first time. I love to frequent Karma Sushi.

When I traveled abroad, I constantly encouraged myself to step outside my comfort zone and maximize my experience. I stopped making excuses and I said yes to more invitations. I took more initiative in planning trips, even if I ended up going alone.

Some of the best moments I have from abroad were when I didn’t feel like going because I was nervous to meet new people, or I was stressed about school, or I missed home, or my friends cancelled.

I ended up going on a lot of trips alone because I didn’t want to waste a day waiting for other people.

Incorporating this mindfulness about my time and my joy into my life at home has relieved a lot of stress. I treat most of my days like the trip is always close to ending. I still work more than anything, but it doesn’t consume my life.

I could spend all night working on endless projects and then go to bed, but now I stop myself at the end of the day and make space for joy. Rather than feel guilty about what I didn’t finish, I count what I’ve accomplished and focus on the preset moment.

When I studied abroad, I valued every day knowing that it was constrained by time. I didn’t want to waste the experience. But I realized our whole lives are constrained by time, and that is why I am mindful of joy on even the most common days. 

MacKenzie Brower is a photojournalist. She is passionate about cultural diversity, climate change and the environment. Her goal is to travel and see the world through the lens of her camera.

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