The first week of classes is a crazy, crazy time.

I’ve had a last of first weeks of classes—between the various programs I’ve cobbled together, I’m starting my sixteenth semester of higher education. A few times the first week has also been my first week at an institution: verifiably hectic. I’ve had ten and half different homes along this journey, so moving and unpacking and newness often played a role as well—and then there was that time I got married a week before seminary orientation started halfway across the country.

But really every new semester is, well, new. Even though I’ve lived in New York for a year and been married for a year and have a year’s worth of experience in seminary, this semester is new. I have new classes and several new professors. I have a new schedule, and it’s pretty full because even though I said last semester that I was going to cut all my extracurriculars to make time for some of my own projects, I didn’t actually manage to quit anything—in fact I added more. In one week I begin field work, my first on-the-ground academic-credit-granting ministry experience as a seminarian. And just in case our household wasn’t quite hectic enough, my husband begins a new job on Tuesday.

You’d think I would be used to this.

You’d think that after almost a decade I would snap into new schedules like it’s my job (which several times it literally was). I don’t, though. I write down assignments and due dates in my calendar and wonder how I’m going to do it all. I come back to my apartment and flop on the couch and turn on Netflix because I feel too tired to think. I cringe when my alarm goes off and fantasize about staying in bed (even though I’m actually pretty terrible at sleeping in). I drink even more than my usual amount of coffee and still yawn my way though Church History.

Because I know how this goes, I know that I’ll develop a rhythm. I know that after a couple of weeks I won’t exactly be brimming with energy*, but I won’t be absolutely wiped out all the time, either.

Every new endeavor involves an adjustment period, a time when the very newness of everything is overwhelming—and every experience of being overwhelmed is, in its own way, new. I can’t say I love this particular feeling, but in an odd way I’m grateful for it, for its role in the changing seasons of life (academic and otherwise).

If I always felt this overwhelmed, I wouldn’t be able to function. If I never felt this way, though, I wouldn’t know how strong I am. I wouldn’t know how I am able to function (and even excel) under pressure, or how I can accomplish so much more than I thought I could. It’s a good feeling—especially when it’s past and I’m looking back.

And in the meantime: naps. And coffee. Definitely coffee.

*Apparently I will never be brimming with energy since, as I learned in my pre-seminary psych evaluation, I am “surprisingly low-energy for someone [my] age going into ordained ministry.” Gee thanks, Mr. Psychiatrist. I’m just an old soul—an old, low-energy soul.

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