I’m not gonna lie. This past week and a half has definitely been rough. But recently there’s been some rays of goodness thrown in there.
One of those rays, if you will, came tonight, in my communications class. It was the last round of speech presentations, so all of my pent up energy was released with a semi-jittery 4 minute presentation about the benefits of hypnosis. After all the speeches were done, our professor sat down in front of us on a stool at eye level and proceeded to talk about the semester. It wasn’t what I expected though. She talked about our growth and how impressed she is that we’ve all become such competent speakers, that we’ve adapted so well to our first semester. But these words are what stuck out the most:
“It’s not my job to be proud of you. Your parents, your peers… they may all feel inclined to be proud of you, or not. But only you knew the stress. Only you pushed through to show up every day. Only you learned a whole new place, schedule, people, workload. The grades I will give you.. heck, they’re only numerical representations on a screen. As far as I’m concerned… you made it through your first semester. You adjusted to a major life event and handled it with grace. Ladies and gentlemen, that is success. No matter what that letter is… there’s so much more to success than that. In my eyes, you’ve all achieved success. And no one can be truly proud of it other than you. You deserve to be proud. By gosh, you’ve earned it.”
And, despite all the looming stress of final exams, it pulled me back to earth.
Recently, as a result of stress and other things, I’ve been looking into the roots of the problems of stressors and why people feel so stressed all the time and I conducted some research regarding my home county (it’s super competitive where I live) and the stress levels of high school students. I hope to publish an article about it soon but the thing that stuck out to me the most was student responses that basically equated academic success to personal success and happiness. Teens at such a vulnerable point in life are making their lives about their representations on paper, on social media, on their tangible accomplishments. It’s messed up.
The worst part?
That used to be me.
Now that I’m out of that environment, it’s easy to see where I live is on some kind of school steroids… that the obsession with competition and grades and needing to feel competent based on only one area of your life is completely unrealistic and empty.
I think we all are searching, groping for meaning… Trying to present ourselves in the best light possible, trying to say “Hi! I’m here! I have worth!”. Some people, when they don’t get that, they die a little inside.
And that’s completely heartbreaking.
Things like this make me want to pursue teaching so I can correct this ideology. Introduce the radical idea that your happiness and success isn’t defined by words on a page, paper or digital.
So wherever you are in school, sure, work hard. Take pride in what you do… But for the love of god, make room for what you love. Take a break when you need to. Give time to yourself. Give yourself something to be passionate about. It may be the thing you turn to, the thing you look for when you feel at your lowest, the thing that pulls you back up.
To all my college people stressing about finals, get some sleep, take breaks, and stay calm. Godspeed and god bless.