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college_mug.jpgToday, Fresh Living gets schooled with a thought-provoking guest post from our intrepid and talented intern, Tufts University student Marysa Sheren.  Marysa is walking a path I know I wasn’t mature enough to attempt at her age–she’s learning to shape her life around sustainable, life-affirming habits that will foster health and happiness now and in the future. 

Below, she muses on the inherent excesses of the college experience, and she shares a journaling technique she developed to make sure she’s on the road to becoming what she calls “an empowered and mindful consumer of life.” Food for thought for all of us–and an invitation to recapture some of the freedom and passion we had when our adult lives were just beginning. Well done, Marysa!  Holly

On Poison Berries and Sweeter Fruits
By Marysa Sheren

As a
college student, I play in a world of excess: excessive studying,
excessive stress, excessive caffeine, but also excessive excitement and
anticipation of the future.  I consume incessantly – new people, new
ideas, everything bagels – sometimes without even realizing what I’m
doing. 

This
colorful, noisy whirlwind of stimulation can make me feel vital and
occasionally provides a much welcomed adrenaline high.  But it can also
leave me depleted.  Sometimes, at the end of a busy day, I find myself
lying exhausted on my top bunk at night, somehow too tired to sleep. 

My
lifestyle, though uniquely collegiate, is not unlike that of countless
people who find themselves exposed to our society’s extremist tendencies
where the pace is fast and the consuming frenzy rages unconfined. 
Regardless of our location or vocation, many of us find ourselves
dizzied and disoriented by our culture of excess, unsure of which way is
up.

A few weeks
ago, though, while deeply regretting the ingestion of an ungodly amount
of coffee, I had a formative realization: I have the power to choose
what I consume.  From the websites I frequent to the thoughts I turn
over in my mind, I am in the driver’s seat when it comes to fueling and
furnishing many facets of my daily life. 

My new
attitude in tow, I decided to write out in my journal which things –
substances, people, behaviors, thoughts – have a positive effect on me,
and which do not.  I wanted to be an empowered and mindful consumer of
life, no longer a victim of my environment but in charge of harvesting
its fruits, and of avoiding its poison berries.

I utilized
the blank page by splitting it in half vertically.  I titled the left
side “bad” and the right column “good.”  Simple enough.

The first
item on the “bad” column?  Excessive caffeine consumption.  It flowed
effortlessly from there: snacking out of boredom, clicking zombie-like
through others’ Facebook pictures, all-nighters, anxious speculation
about post-graduation plans, gossipy sociability, self-flagellating over
a disappointing test score…

The “good”
list wrote itself: writing in my journal, hosting dance and tea parties
in my dorm room, short bursts of efficient studying, religious services,
cooking, physical affection, deep breaths, my little sister, cat naps…

Standing
back and looking at my inventory, I was puzzled as to why I would ever
choose to consume any of the items on the “bad” list, which stood before
me as a kind of confession.  The good list, on the other hand, was an
invitation.  It offered me a wellspring of resources for sustainable
energy and peaceful rest.  Why would I ever not choose that?

Sometimes, I
think, in the craziness of our daily lives, it helps to remember that,
while there is a lot we cannot control, there is also a lot we can. 
Pressures and impulses to consume mindlessly or to slip into destructive
behaviors need not be viewed as insurmountable obstacles, but merely as
the berries best avoided.  And on the flip side of that coin: a garden
of sweet fruit ripe for the picking.

(image via: http://www.cafepress.com/)

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