“No” by Anne Grae Martin (editor post)

I was walking by Bayard-Sharp Hall the other day and was suddenly struck by an intense nostalgic longing. This has been the first year of my college career that I do not report to Bayard-Sharp every Monday and Wednesday to sing in University Singers, the all-women’s choral ensemble. It’s actually the first time since  4th grade that I haven’t participated in any choir. Singing is probably my favorite hobby and it has been really hard to let it go. But sometimes you have to let things go.

This semester I have been running the mock trial program at UD, producing the Delaware Debates, working as a peer mentor at the English Language Institute, serving as acting president of French Club, going to alumni events as a Student Alumni Ambassador, working as an editor for this blog, studying for the LSATs, applying to law school, as well as carrying a full course load. It has been a crazy semester and I think the only way I’ve gotten through it is by learning when to say “no.”

I’ve always functioned best when I’m stretched to my limits. Since middle school I have done three seasons of sports after school. In high school I continued with the three seasons of sports, then I started a mathleague program at my school, served on the honor board, joined our mock trial team, was class co-chair for my grade, participated in almost every fall and spring show at my school, participated in choir and the smaller vocal ensemble, and served as captain of the swim team for my junior and senior year. In high school I also got special permission from our principal to use my built in free period to take an extra 6th class. And all this without ever liking coffee. I don’t say this to brag. I say it to paint a picture of the kind of high functioning maniac I am.

This was the first semester where I reached my limit. Singing is not the only activity I gave up this semester. I had to quit the swim team, I eventually quit working as a peer mentor at the English Language Institute, and I don’t remember the last time I went on a run or read a book for fun (except over Thanksgiving break). It sucks. I remember calling my dad at the beginning of the semester, distraught because I am not a quitter. But he reminded me that quitting is not something to be ashamed of. That in fact it takes real courage to learn how and when to say, “no.”

This was a hard pill to swallow. But I tried to take him for his word. Even though I’m still overwhelmed by all that I have to do, looking back at this semester I’m so happy I had the guts to learn when I was stretching myself too far. My high school’s motto was “multa bene facta” meaning “many things done well.” That is the motto I have always tried to apply to my life. But then I realized: it’s better to do a few things well than many things adequately. By letting things go, I have been able to focus on the activities in my life that I have chosen to keep. Our mock trial team placed second at the Hooter Invitational back in October, I just took the LSATs and didn’t feel murdered by them (maybe??), and I even finally learned how to do a handstand in yoga. When I do something, I like to give 100%. I’m proud that I can say that for the things I’ve kept in my life, they have received my full attention.

As this is an honors blog, I feel that many of you will relate to this. That thrill of overextending yourself. The joy that comes from shrinking the text on your resume to 9.5 and adjusting the margins so that everything can fit on. The unease that comes from an empty calendar. But if you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water, just take a second to breathe. Realize that no one expects you to do everything right now. To quote from the Life is Good brand motto: “Do what you like. Like what you do.” You’ll end up where you need to be in the end.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Thank you for this. I was the same in high school, with the absurd extracurriculars piled on constantly. To a degree I am still the same, except a year ago, when I burned out harder than I ever had before and had to quit many, many things. It made me feel pretty awful. I’m over it now, but this blog post was relatable. I wish I had seen this a year ago.

    • agmartin

      December 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad I’m not the only one. It definitely is easy to stress ourselves out but I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

Comments are closed.

© 2024

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Skip to toolbar