With great independence comes great responsibility

Mihir Gokhale, Associate Editor

I’ll admit it: I initially had mixed emotions about coming to UT. 

On the one hand, I didn’t know what to expect from the college lifestyle. On the other, I was eager to exercise my independence. How would I harness my future? What new possibilities lay ahead? These questions swirled through my mind. 

As freshmen, it’s natural to approach college with this enthusiasm. We quickly fine-tune our daily activities around academics and socialization. Our days soon become whirlwinds of group projects, tests, club meetings and internships. 

However, this newfound college independence requires discipline. 

While crafting a meaningful college experience is essential, we can’t forget the little things along the way. Eating well, exercising, maintaining healthy relationships, relaxing and getting good sleep – these are vital tenets of self-care we often neglect in college. 

When I arrived at UT, I was guilty of this same mistake. Just as I had done in high school, I aggressively absorbed myself in coursework and extracurriculars. I honed my independence and prioritized studying and getting good grades above all else. 

For the first two weeks, everything was great. Then suddenly, my seemingly-impeccable system turned upside-down. Sure, I attended all my classes and meetings, and there was no noticeable drop in my academic performance. So why didn’t I feel good? 

Everything was fine on paper, but I felt inundated in school, disorganized and overwhelmed by burnout. 

Independence is a double-edged sword. Unlike high school, college forces us to navigate the world with little parental oversight. We can shape our schedules without being told what to do and when. Although this freedom seems unconditional, it comes with strings attached. 

Gone are the days when my dad gently prodded me to exercise, my brother dragged me away from homework to play soccer or my mom brought me herbal tea for an all-nighter. Whether we acknowledge it or not, these small acts of self-care make a difference. They support and uplift us, giving us subtle encouragement in tough times and letting us appreciate what truly matters. 

Now, it’s up to us to carry these acts forward. 

While there’s no secret formula for self-care, we must harness our independence to build rewarding and healthy lifestyles. Step back and take breaks – not just when absolutely necessary, but instead voluntarily. Make time to do things you genuinely enjoy. Above all, be proactive, mindful and sustainable in your pursuits.

Recognize that independence is a nuanced process. Don’t be afraid to fail as you discover what works best for you. If once you don’t succeed, try, try again.

After much trial and error, I am slowly balancing a lifestyle catered to both my academic aspirations and personal needs – one that makes my experience at UT memorable. Each day, small habits become routines, and routines evolve into schedules. Each day, I steadily adapt to my newfound freedom. 

There is beauty in independence. While, as college students, we have the potential to shape our futures and achieve great heights, we cannot allow this power to detract from our self-care. Always remember: with great independence comes great responsibility. 

Go forth and use it wisely. 

Gokhale is an undeclared business freshman from Allen, Texas.