Hi, burnt out college junior here. As I write this, I’m sitting in the library next to my extensive to-do list, filled with the folllwing: write this article, study for my two midterms this week, write my Psychology paper due this week, attend club events, plan club meetings, and a few bullets more.
Every semester, I frequently find myself in this exact position. Sitting in the library for hours on end, scraping away any and all motivation I have to pick away at my endless to-do’s, all resulting from my decision to over-book my schedule each semester. And when I find myself realizing that I’m wanting to rip my hair out, and my friends start to ask me if I’m doing okay, I quickly shrug my shoulders and give a half-hearted smile and say…
Let me tell you, I am VERY guilty of brushing my own stress and mental health under the rug publicly. To be totally honest, I have always found the question “how are you?” to be pretty surface level. When people ask you this, they rarely expect you to fire back with a detailed description of everything that has led to how you are feeling at that particular moment. If you did, you’d probably be labeled an over-sharer by the other person, and kick yourself for even responding in the slightest of detail. You give back the stereotypical responses: “I’m fine” or “I’m good, how are you?”
You get the picture.
But what we fail to recognize is this. We’re all human. As a 20-year-old college student, I have had my fair share of crappy days and weeks. To be completely transparent with you, I found myself shedding a few tears in Dinand Library about 20 minutes ago because it’s the Monday after October break, and I am already feeling like life’s personal punching bag. And that particular almost-cry-sesh is what inspired me to write this piece. Because I know that if anyone saw me and asked if I was okay, I would brush away my tears and continue typing away at the computer and simply say…
Most of the time, I usually avoid telling people how I’m doing for a few reasons. Maybe I’m just not in the mood to talk, or I don’t want my friends or family to worry about me. Or, I just don’t want to be labelled as someone who’s sensitive, or depressing, or some other negatively-connotated descriptor. Why do we want to pretend like we are the strongest people we know, even though most of us are young adults dealing with problems and stressors that we’ve never experienced before? Especially at a school like Holy Cross, we are expected to be invincible before we’ve even stepped a foot out into the real world. We’re expected to exceed in our classes and attain that unattainable GPA, work out and stay active, eat healthy, potentially date someone, find our “friends for life,” get involved in extracurriculars, while also doing all we can to prep ourselves for life post-graduation (which is arguably even more stressful!)
We are so quick to undermine our own emotions, and downplay the struggles we’re having. I have started to embrace my feelings. Yes, you can argue that wallowing isn’t the healthiest, or that there are better coping mechanisms, but as a Psychology major I’ve learned a thing or two. For me, understanding and acknowledging my emotions and why I feel the way I feel has done more for me than any distraction from the book. Once we begin to accept how we feel, and understand that it’s totally okay to have a crappy day, we can start to become more comfortable expressing this to other people. It’s about time we end the stigma of always “being fine,” and acknowledge that we’re all going through our own experiences, as easy or as hard as they may be. But instead of promoting this unrealistic stigma, let’s be honest about them.