Riley Peterson / Staff Photographer. Evan Kenefic studying in his dorm room in Gorham. (Hopefully he isn’t too stressed!)

Since moving to online classes from being in-person in early March, people have been adding more and more to their already busy lives. Since we are mostly working and taking classes online, we must have more time to fill the extra space we have and have more time on our hands. People have been starting new projects, learning a language, doing extra hours of work, adding new tasks to stay busy is the new normal. But do we have additional time? Is this the best way to be filling the space we would have had if we were in person?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, it’s okay to add things to your schedule if you feel like you have the time, but maybe people are adding too much in replacement for what they are longing for.

As students, planning out this year was arduous. Students deciding if they should invest in living off-campus or, live on campus, but have the chance of getting sent home early. How to work remotely, maintain friendships, and also still stay on track for classes and school.

This semester is different and challenging for many students in all sorts of ways, no one has the perfect schedule, and oftentimes it can feel as if they are spreading themselves too thin trying to balance it all at once.

Sydney Morton, originally from Pittsfield Maine, decided to bite the bullet and move into an apartment in Buxton for her junior year. Morton is a double major in communication and media studies. Her schedule consists of five courses, three online, and two that meet in person once a week on the Portland campus.

Besides being a full-time student, Morton also works 40 hours a week at the Gorham Recreation Center working with children in their daycare and aftercare programs. She also has a radio show with WMPG every Monday from 6:30 to- 8:30 a.m.

Morton explained that although she is working all day it isn’t an eight-hour shift, they are spread throughout the day. “I am working with children, ages Kindergarten to fifth. Due to COVID-19, half of the kids are in class and the other half are at the rec center, and then they switch during the day.” Similar to camp, Morton and her co-workers are in charge of hosting activities, doing arts and crafts, helping with homework, and school-related things.

While Morton said her workplace is very strict about safety and requires small groups of kids, always wearing your mask and “lots and lots of soap, I feel like the kids and I are always washing our hands.”

The way her days are laid out goes as follows, “I work 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., then I have a break and have my online classes or go into Portland, then I come back and work from 2 pm to 5:30,” she said.

Morton has been working at the Gorham Rec Center since the fall of last year up until the closure in March. When she returned this fall, they asked her if she wanted to work full time, she replied, “I had the extra time since most of my classes were online, and I needed to pay for rent and my expenses.”

While working full time and being a full-time student is hard, Morton likes to utilize her time in the car as a way to shift from work mode to school mode. Having this time to refresh, and have a space to think.

“I can’t do any homework after I get home from work, I am exhausted and the last thing I want to do is school work … that’s why I do all my homework on the weekends,” Morton explained that with this packed schedule her days have blurred together. It’s a different type of productivity. It feels like nothing is done school-wise, but in reality, she has been working and doing a full-time job. It’s hard to find the balance between accepting that you can be busy doing productive activities that aren’t school-related.

“I am struggling with that. I am 20 years old, but working 40 hours while taking classes. I don’t feel like I am in college anymore,” Morton said. She feels as if she isn’t learning, watching lectures over Zoom doesn’t feel like she is doing the work, she is just watching it.

For the first time in many students’ lives, they’ve had to make these very strange long term decisions when not a lot of information about the future is given. Shooting blind in the dark.

Should you go back to school? Should you take the semester off? Do you want to risk being on campus? Are you ready for a lease and the responsibility of living in an apartment?

Just because students are learning remotely, and have all this “free time”, it does not mean they are ready to fill that space back up. It’s okay to have time off, to feel relaxed, to enjoy a slower semester.

“Adulting is hard, it’s not super comfortable being off-campus, it’s changed all of my relationships,” Morton said. She is working, doing school, having extracurricular activities, and all trying to enjoy her twenties, make new friends, and map out her future.

“It’s hard to prioritize friendship when I don’t have time to do homework, but I crave attention. All I see are my co-workers and people through Zoom,” Morton said. She explained how she is trying to find the balance between giving herself to relax and be alone, doing homework, and staying in touch with her friends. “I feel like I am saying yes to everything, I want to be with my friends, but then I don’t leave time to do homework.”

This isn’t just Morton’s problem either, many students are still searching for the perfect balance of utilizing this newfound time and still processing all the change that has occurred due to this pandemic. Everything is still changing, including our routines, it’s okay to not feel settled in. Allow yourself to sort through everything gradually, not everything needs to be solved overnight. Just because you have all this extra time, doesn’t mean to have to fill it.

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