I quit rowing and I have no clue what to do with myself and I’m so sad but I can’t go back because I need to do school work … but adjusting to normal life is so fucking hard and I don’t even know how to manage my time anymore.
There have been a lot of questions posted on here that I’ve identified with but this is definitely one of the most relatable ones I’ve come across. I felt the same way when I quit in college but looking back now I can see that the way I “adjusted” to it was, well, wrong.
When I stopped coxing it was the first time in several years where I wasn’t doing some kind of extra-curricular activity that took up a ton of time outside of school for at least ten of the twelve months out of the year. Up to that point having legitimate free time was something I’d only really experienced for about four weeks in December and four weeks in June, so going from an Energizer bunny-like mentality to suddenly having all this time to do whatever I wanted was bad. There was this initial feeling of wanting to go party my ass off and just let loose because I no longer had coaches/teammates to answer to or practices to wake up for. (I remember thinking that this must be how child actors feel…) There was also this feeling of suddenly needing to be fiercely protective of my time. If it didn’t relate to going to class, a project, meeting, or some other school-related obligation, there was no way I was doing it because it would cut into the time I had to myself. I wouldn’t even do anything during that time either, which was so stupid. It was like I was trying to hoard the seconds I had to myself and soak in the lack of having to be somewhere doing something in case this period of downtime never happened again. Cue time wasted. The downside to all of this was that I didn’t experience anything in college. Nothing. All because I quit rowing to focus on school and ended up completely mismanaging my time while convincing myself that I wasn’t because I deserved a break, some time to myself, etc.
I could go on and on and on and on and on about this but to keep things brief, here’s my advice. Take the time you used to spend at crew and divide it in half. On the conservative side, let’s say you spent two hours a day, six days a week at practice. That’s 12 hours, split down the middle to six and six. The first six hours are yours to do whatever you want with. Schedule it into your day if you can – for one hour, Monday through Saturday, unplug, disconnect, whatever, and do something that you previously didn’t have time to do because you were at crew. If that’s as simple as reading a stack of magazines, playing with your dog, or going for a run so you can continue staying active, go for it. Or it could be picking up a new hobby, volunteering, etc. Whatever you want to do, that’s your hour to do it. The other six hours you put into school. It doesn’t necessarily have to be studying either, it could be joining a new club or group that you’ve always been interested in but couldn’t join because the two schedules conflicted or picking up an internship in a field you’re interested in. There are an infinite number of possibilities of things to do on-campus if you’e in college and this is your chance to get out there and try something new so … take advantage of it.
My point with all of this is to not do what I did. Be as protective of your new-found free time as you need to be but don’t be so protective of it that you sabotage the opportunity you now have to do something that you might not have otherwise been able to do. If managing your time in general is tough for you (which is common) then find a planner/scheduling system that you like and put it to work. Plan out your days/weeks/months as necessary and stick to it. That takes commitment but you’re a rower/coxswain so I doubt that that’s a skill you’re lacking in. The bottom line though is to not let yourself spiral out of control because you don’t know what to do with yourself or your time anymore. Find something fun to do to fill up that two hour window every day and move on. Don’t look at this as the end of your rowing career either. You can always jump right back in again if you want to when the circumstances best suit your lifestyle.