Hello, I’m an alumni from 2015. I’m here with unsolicited advice, but I hope it will reach some people who needed to hear it.
As we all know, FIRST can be all-consuming, and you might be tired after a long competition season. You might feel like you have given your team your all and you have nothing left. You might also feel like you don’t know what to do without FIRST, because it has been your focus for so long. You might be relieved the season is over, or you might miss it already. And whatever you are doing next year, you have probably heard FIRST say they want you to be active alumni.
An active and connected alumni base is super important, and there are tons of fantastic alumni mentors and volunteers who love sharing their experiences and expertise with current students, and FIRST wouldn’t be the same without them. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about you, seniors.
I’m going to gently encourage you to take a break from FIRST. Not forever, not completely. Just a little. Go to college or work and make new friends. Learn how to cook. Pick up a new hobby. Learn more about yourself outside of robotics. Take care of yourself and your grades and your relationships. FIRST will still be here, and we will still need you, but it’s ok to take time to grow a little independent first.
And this is coming from my experience: In my junior year of high school, I realized I was so focused on robotics that I wasn’t taking good care of myself or my friends. I didn’t know who I was outside of being team captain. This improved slightly my senior year, but I knew I just needed a break. I went to college and decided not to mentor. I didn’t volunteer the first year, but after that I did volunteer at a couple events each year. It was weird, I really missed my team and the focus that it brought to my life. However, by taking this break I was able to excel in all my classes (my grades slid every year during build season) and I had time to just hang out with friends (as opposed to going home exhausted every night). Finally, I think I learned a lot about myself and grew as a person during my time off, and I think I am more ready to mentor because of it. I do fully intend to mentor a team in the next few years, and to continue volunteering.
I just wanted to share my experience and hopefully let people know that self-care is important and stepping away is a completely valid life choice, whether you feel burnt out or not. Much love and best of luck to everyone starting their journeys! Feel free to share your story.