Finals week: It’s stressful because I feel pressure to do well on these last projects, papers, and exams, but yet the process is straightforward enough that I am not truly anxious about it. Or at least, not as anxious as I thought I would be.
Let me distinguish between stress and anxiety:
stress. n. a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
anxiety. n. a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
The stress is the necessity of spending long hours in the library (or my favorite place to work: the Wyatt computer lab).
The anxiety is feeling that I will fail––just absolutely fail everything––despite the long hours of writing and studying. Of course, that black-and-white thinking is not productive, and so I plow through my projects and essays, ever-hopeful that it will all turn out all right.
This is what I mean about a straightforward process: I got back to Vanderbilt from Thanksgiving break on Sunday night. I completed the penultimate assignment for my statistics class and turned it in the next morning at 8am. On Tuesday I completed the final assignment and turned it in on Wednesday. Very linear, see?
Thus I proceeded: I worked on my final project for my cognitive studies intro class Wednesday afternoon/night and finished it up and submitted it Thursday night. On Thursday I had my last classes; Friday was a “reading day,” dedicated solely to studying. I ended up working for no more than two and a half hours in that whole day, however; I spent a good amount of time shopping online, freaking out about my lost Commodore Card (the Commons iDesk had it, fortunately), and attending the “Mega Stress Fest” (henna tattoo, eyebrow waxing, massage––in other words, I LOVE VANDERBILT).
I must not neglect to mention #IDSBSSE2K13, also known as the Inside ‘Dores Secret Santa Exchange/Christmas party, which happened Friday afternoon.
On Saturday I put my nose to the grindstone. It helps that it was below freezing all day (never thought I’d write those words––it helps?), and thus miserable to be outside. Being forced to stay inside helps me focus. I spent at least eight hours on Saturday and five on Sunday focusing on a paper for my education final. I turn it in Monday at noon.
Next up, I’m going to study for an actual exam on Tuesday (Human Bio) and Wednesday (Nutrition). The thought is blessedly not anxiety-producing. Maybe it’s that Citalopram kicking in, because the beginning of the semester was sure as heck anxiety-provoking.
Let me back up: This summer I spent five weeks in China. Afterwards, I wondered at the value of the trip. My job was purportedly to teach, but I spent half of the time in the office working on A/V presentations and printing stuff for camp activities. And that was my choice––I found teaching to be really hard (even the fun-and-games style we were doing at camp), and my skill set to be really inadequate. It makes sense: I had just graduated high school, I was the youngest teacher at camp for the majority of the time, and really my only qualification was that I had been to camp three years prior.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved working in China––for the benefits. I spent my summer with so many cool and inspiring people, and I got to mountain biked and night-hike through Shanxi dirt cliffs. I made everyone envious. You know, those kind of benefits.
But what was the impact of my summer on others’ lives? Do the students remember me? Did I bless the other teachers? I don’t know the long-term impact.
This week I’ve been thinking, maybe it’s more about what I didn’t do this summer than what I did do. I didn’t waste it. I didn’t sit at home, playing Candy Crush on my iPad, online shopping, eating dessert every day and watching two full seasons of Breaking Bad. Which is what I’ve done this semester as a reaction to stress.
During the summer, of course I was excited and nervous about starting college, but I had bigger things on my mind. When I finally arrived on campus, less than a week after flying across the world, I had to face the realities of college. It was tough.
I told myself, It’s the first-year experience. Adjusting to college is tough for everyone. That’s just how it is. Maybe I made it tough for myself by going to China and then moving in early for Media Immersion––what a whirlwind!––but at any rate, I’ve survived, and the Dean of the Commons told me that once finals are over, we will be “college experts.”
Can’t get much better than that, can it?