“Slow down, you’re doing fine.”

Reality rarely matches the rapid-fire machine-gun pace of my brain, but two Tuesdays ago, it did, just for a couple minutes. I was working with my current project manager, Lauren, on the pitch my team was going to deliver the next day. We were taking turns bouncing ideas off each other, and I was getting more excited with every sentence.

Suddenly Lauren asked me, “What’s that look?”

“What look?” I asked.

“That look you get when you’re talking about the pitch.”

I thought for a second and said, “I just really love journalism, OK?”

I know it’s not a bad thing to be passionate about something, especially when that something is A) vital to a democratic society and B) what I was born to do. I also know that when passion becomes obsession, things start to go south. I got so invested in 4804 that I was mentally and physically exhausted. I kind of felt like a zombie, but I got some sort of twisted satisfaction out of that.

Spring break could not have come at a better time for me. I spent a couple days in Ohio with some improv buddies, and then I came home. Rockford isn’t the greatest place to be from, but it’s not the worst place either. When you look at the city from certain angles, like the view (above) from the third floor of the Burpee Natural History Museum, it’s actually really pretty.

Even though I had some homework (ugh), I’ve been able to chill and recharge this week. I’ve petted my cat, binge-watched some TV shows, and listened to a lot of music. I discovered Declan McKenna, a British alt-rock up-and-comer with some heavy lyrics, and I rediscovered Icon for Hire, a ferocious alt-metal group that I could spend weeks rambling about.

On Thursday, the Cold War Kids released a new single, “Restless,” and my jaw dropped the first time I heard the following lyrics:

“Now you’re wired and you’re tired / There is never a break / You only come alive at the thrill of the chase.”

(Don’t you just love it when a song describes your life perfectly? Also, doesn’t it freak you out a bit?)

Chasing in-depth, multimedia news stories definitely makes me “come alive.” Once I come alive, though, I want to stay that way. I pursue “the thrill of the chase” so hard that I wear myself out. That’s what I’ve been doing this semester, especially throughout March, in 4804. And honestly, I know better.

I don’t have to work myself to death just to prove that I care about 4804 or that I can do well in it as a sophomore. I don’t have to experience “the thrill of the chase” to be doing something worthwhile, or something at all. I don’t have to be in a frenzy to feel alive.

A couple weeks before break, I was listening to my iPod on shuffle when I heard another song I strongly related to and thought, “Maybe I should take its advice.” Of course, I didn’t because I was moving at a nonstop pace. Spring break gave me the chance to listen to it again and really take it in. It’s “Vienna” by Billy Joel, which I’ve known since I was little. Here’s the part that really resonates with me:

“Slow down, you’re doing fine / You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.”

“You’re doing fine.” Judd said that to me more than once before break. My last project manager, Nina, told me the same thing. How many people have to tell me that before I believe it?

I realized I need to start trusting myself. I need to trust that I will still feel alive even if I’m not constantly wired, that I won’t neglect my responsibilities if I step back and take the occasional breather, and that I have both the skills and the passion to be a good journalist without overanalyzing everything or overworking myself.

For some reason, I knew all of this last semester, and things worked out great. I’m not sure what changed this semester; I think I just got really nervous when I started my sequence, so I accidentally discarded some of the lessons I previously learned. Thank God spring break has allowed me to get those lessons back.

I’m about to head back to Columbia and slay the last six weeks of the semester. I’m mentally and physically refreshed. I finally believe I’m doing OK. I’m calm, and I feel more alive than I have in the past two months.

“You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need.”

Thanks, Billy Joel. I remember what I need now.

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