There’s all too often the sound of a ticking clock in my head. The incessant noise of the seconds passing, visualized in my mind’s eye as the great hourglass of my life, lets grains slip from my grasp. The anxiety of waste is ever present, and the reasons why are never hard to identify.

TOPS is a program most Louisiana college students are familiar with, regardless of whether or not they receive it, and as one of its recipients it’s both a blessing and a curse.

With its blessing I’ve been able to duck having to take out a loan during my time at our beloved University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but the equal and opposite reaction can still be devastating. With only eight semesters to graduate, even with no delays in progress I feel the deadline.

You don’t need to step incorrectly to feel a malevolent force’s gaze, and with the TOPS award’s limit even in my day to day I feel the urge to burn both ends of the candle. 

Perhaps it’s maladaptive, but in the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast…” Too fast to not consider where what you’re doing down to the minute might take you. Too fast not to try to cram that extra class in like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit.

Intent on doing another 18-hour semester this fall after my last one in the spring earlier this year, I picked up an online class I thought would be perfect for my schedule. 

Regardless of the fact my previous 18-hour semester forced me out of the public eye by way of needing to find time again, I was beholden to more important things than a social life. I needed my hours before they needed me.

I had managed six classes before, even with the added shift of taking online anthropology I was confident I could make it with time to spare; I’d learned some lessons from last semester after all. 

I started sleeping biphasically to make sure I was getting enough beauty rest, and picked up a habit of napping in public to supplant what couldn’t be achieved at home. I was walking a tightrope of self care and work.

Still, my best was proving not to be good enough for reasons I couldn’t wrap my head around. 

If I was shedding the time I had for my hobbies as the semester trundled on, why could I still not keep up with my workload? 

Why was it so difficult to remember when my tests were in between internalizing French grammar and reading several short stories and a novel? Why did I still feel the need to do more?

In spite of coming to college with classes done, and a sense of urgency to rival the most well trained attack dogs, I felt like any moment’s slack was a moment that could lead to my future downfall. 

Deciding that even if I were to eke out two more perfect tests, and a perfect final, to recover my online anthropology course, the risk of losing my TOPS over an unfounded scheduling fear had to slip off my shoulders. 

I went to Lee Hall to lighten my load, and then had to return the next day because I had actually missed the drop period of that Monday, and finally took my life back. 

Even with the usual scheduling troubles of life, as a college student or anything else, and my new responsibilities with The Vermilion, there’s freedom in dropping a class. There is freedom in allowing yourself to break from the unrealistic schedule you had set for yourself. 

There’s freedom in the minute failures that construct a lifetime. I’m glad I didn’t let Nov. 2 pass me by without a thought this year.

I was living my life by the wrong part of Ferris’ famous words, because even if life is fast there’s something more important than speed. Before your life comes to an end you’ve got to “stop and look around once in a while,” before you miss it.