As I gear up for the semester, I find myself falling back into the familiar feeling of pressure associated with being a college student. As young adults, we put so much weight on every moment of our lives, especially during the school year. Every test feels like the most important grade you’ll ever earn; every internship or executive board position you apply for feels like a necessary rung on the ladder of achievement; every opportunity or challenge feels like something that has to be seized to prove our worth and set ourselves up for future success.
And when we fail — when we don’t pass the test; when that position is given to someone else; when that opportunity is lost — it can feel like something we will never recover from. College has this way of making every moment feel huge and significant because we never know which opportunity will be the launchpad for the rest of our lives. The incessance and permanence of grading — something I have previously voiced my dissatisfaction with — compounds that pressure we feel. The current moment we are in always feels like the most important one, but all that added pressure isn’t helping us. Sure, a little healthy pressure keeps us motivated, but too much creates unnecessary stress that can actually cause us to perform worse.
When I take a step back, I get a new perspective. I often realize that the moments and opportunities that felt super important to me a couple years (or even months) ago are ones I can barely remember now. Tests that weighed heavily on my mind and interviews that I lost sleep over have relinquished the control they once had over me. I’ve moved on.
As I enter my final year of college, I think back on all the moments that felt like they were the most important challenges I’d ever face in my life. They all seem so insignificant to me now. I can remember shedding tears over the stress of being buried in essays and exams, but I couldn’t tell you the grades I inevitably earned on any of those assignments. I can recall failures that struck me so sharply in the moment I thought the sting would never subside; they now cross my mind only in passing and the ache dulled until it disappeared entirely.
As college students, we must remember that these moments that feel so important now will pass, and new important moments will surface. We can give each moment the respect it deserves while refraining from placing so much gravity on it that we can’t just enjoy the journey. And we can repurpose our energy away from fretting over the potential failures and towards basking in the potential successes. Sometimes, taking a step back and adding a little perspective is all we need.
Halle Swasing is a fourth year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. Her fortnightly column Goes Without Swasing explores student life and social conflicts. She can be reached at [email protected].
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