This past Saturday, I was traveling to Washington DC late at night for an event the next day when, shortly before arriving at my hotel, a foreign object flew across the road and punctured one of my tires. I barely made it into the hotel garage before the tire went completely flat. In the morning, after changing the tire to the donut, I went to the local tire shop to have the tire repaired so that I could travel back to Philadelphia. The man looked at the tire with concern and said that it was too damaged to repair. I agreed to buy a replacement and he quietly suggested that I purchase two tires. When I asked why, he said that he could replace one tire if I wanted but replacing both rear tires would make for a smoother ride because the car would be balanced.
Recently, I talked with one of my former students who is working in Costa Rica this year. When she first arrived, she loved the rice and beans that accompanied most meals. They were well prepared and flavorful and available from just about every establishment. After several months of living there, she’s returned home for the holidays. We decided to meet for lunch and I asked what type of restaurant she’d prefer. She quickly responded, “Anything that isn’t rice and beans.” It’s not that it wasn’t good; it’s just that balance makes everything better.
This is the first note that I’m writing since leaving my leadership position with A Better Chance after eighteen years to dedicate myself completely to CollegeThoughts, my own venture that seeks to demystify the college process for students across America. As a new business owner working full-time for my own company, the temptation is ever present to work day and night to find more clients and book more presentations and do more and more and more. But as I sat waiting for my tires to be finished, I realized that the same lack of balance that makes car rides less comfortable often makes life less pleasant as well. And I realize that many of you may have discovered the same.
There is a frightening increase in the number of students who are leaving school because of a decline in their mental health. Students are tired from a continued pursuit of perfection and chasing admission to the one college of their dreams instead of considering more of the 3,777 that exists in our country. More than ever before, there is a need for us to be committed to finding balance in our everyday lives. And as my friend at the tire shop shared with me, often balance requires making changes in pairs. We need balance between our academic and social worlds. We need to be committed to investing in spending time with our families as well as spending time with our friends. And while school consistently feeds the mind, we can’t ever forget the importance of feeding the heart. We need both to thrive in a world that grows colder by the day.
Other things threaten our balance as well. Students often commit to their social media profiles more than to actually enjoying real life. Many get so lost in the love of their lives that they forget the importance of loving themselves. It’s important to earn money, but you need more than cash to be rich. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. Work hard in your classes but join a new club or activity. Go to see the movie that you’ve been dying to see but go to see one that you never thought you’d be interested in before.
Because, sadly, there will always be hazards in the road. Fake friends. Deny letters. Pop quizzes. Arguments. Armaments. Politics. Pettiness. The list goes on and on. But always remember, my dear students, that if you happen to hit an obstacle in the road, you can’t afford to lose sight of your destination just because you are feeling flat. Pull over, rest for a while, and gather yourself. And always know that I’m honored whenever you call on me to help get you back on the road to success again.