Edit desk: Everything breaks even

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Madeleine Sheifer

Anyone who knows me knows I love collecting quotes and phrases that are significant to my life.

Although I was teased for it, I used to annotate my leisure reading books, keep a journal of all my favorite song lyrics and make collages out of clippings of headlines and columns from magazines that spoke to me. Now, as a college student, I’m studying fields that are centered around taking quotes from people and telling their stories.

I have always been obsessed with quotes and have found some that are especially meaningful to me.

Many teachers and professors have adages they repeat throughout their courses, but a specific one from a Principles of Economics course I took at Lehigh has stuck with me ever since I heard it.

“In most typical competitive cases, everything breaks even in the long run.”

While that statement applies in the realm of supply, demand and average total cost curves in various competitive markets, the phrase held meaning to me outside the classroom and the world of economic jargon.

Our lives are full of competing forces that constantly fight for our time.

I’ve always been a relatively busy person. Throughout high school, I balanced activities and academics in a way that worked for me for the time being.

My life at home was a constant cycle —  swim. School. Swim. Homework. Bed.

I rarely strayed from that pattern and was constantly concerned about breaking it. I enjoyed the familiarity, but my real reason for sticking to a rigid routine was because of my crippling fear that I would somehow fail in either my academic or athletic realms if I lost any of the time I so distinctly devoted to them.

Sure, there were weekends where I’d attend an occasional gathering with friends or spend an hour here or there with my teammates, but my social life was relatively limited to conversations during the school day or at swim practice.

It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year of high school, when a career-ending injury forced me to stop swimming, that I realized there was so much more to life than my all-too-familiar routine.

The truth was, I wasn’t really breaking even. I was barely scraping by.

After spending more time with my classmates and teammates outside of the realms in which I knew them, I began to appreciate all that I had missed out on because of my worries. Upon graduation, I was happy with the way my high school career had culminated, yet I couldn’t help but feel there was a decent amount of social aspects I had significantly missed out on.

I made it my goal that when I arrived at college, I would learn to balance my time between a multitude of activities that would enhance my life as a student, friend and individual.

While it took time, after nearly a year and a half at Lehigh, I have found myself settled in a place where I feel my time is better balanced. The different activities within my world break even in terms of time and energy.

I spend mornings with my academic peers learning about journalistic practices and strategic marketing theories. I spend two days a week editing photos for The Brown and White. I joined an organization that allows me to connect with Lehigh students and alumni to foster a community that encourages involvement and tradition. I take part in events run through the Community Service Office to better connect myself to the greater Bethlehem area.

Each day I give myself some “me time” by going for a run or taking a pilates class. And at the end of the day, there’s still time to hang out with my sorority sisters and bond over a meal or a movie.

Over time, I’ve learned that timing and scheduling do not need to be so rigid. It is important to take advantage of all the opportunities surrounding you —  even if it means losing time in another area of your life.

In day-to-day life, it’s easy to become stressed about losing that time, however.

I am still learning. I probably don’t call my parents as often as I should, and I know that I could be better about checking on my high school friends scattered across the country. However, when we do have the opportunity to catch up, things pick up where they left off. The time is made up for, but it definitely could be more consistent.

The feeling of knowing your heart lies in multiple places on campus and at home outweighs the anxiety surrounding slight scheduling tiffs. In the long-run, each lost hour is made up for in some other way. So, when looking at the big picture, everything does break even.

Madeleine Sheifer, ’21, is an associate photo editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached [email protected]

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2 Comments

  1. Amy Charles '89 on

    So no more Keynes at Lehigh?

    It occurs to me that Aronson wanted me to declare an econ major only because hardly anyone else was paying attention in 001.

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