An Ode to Junior Year (and Other) Stress

Last Wednesday, I came home at about 1:30 am, took off my backpack, dropped to the floor, and proceeded to eat an uncooked block of ramen straight out of the packet. Do I like eating uncooked noodles recreationally? No, not really, but that night I felt compelled to do so. I had just realized how much work I had done that day, and how many things I still needed to do before dawn; how many 10-plus-page papers I had to write, how many books I had to read, how many job applications I had to fill out, and how many events I had still promised to attend that weekend. I was so overwhelmed by what I had to do that I didn’t do anything. I sat on the floor and ate an uncooked block of ramen.

This is junior year, I’ve learned. This is the time of year where I have skip out of one meeting early to make it to another meeting across campus late, when I stay up all night trying to complete essays and reading only to have no energy for class the next morning, when I find myself digging in my pockets and under my bed for quarters for the vending machine because I missed Peirce mealtimes. For some people it is a phenomenon that occurs constantly and for others, never at all. For me, it’s now, the time of year when you feel a weight on your chest like a ton of bricks that you can’t seem to shake off, and that, even if you did, you’re not sure would stay away.

If it’s one consolation, though, I like to tell myself that I’m not the only one going through this. I know there have to be hundreds around campus (if not half of the student body) in similar situations. They’re not necessarily sitting on the floors of their rooms eating entire blocks of ramen. But they’re tired, stressed, and wantlike the rest of usfor the work wave to end.

And for when the work gets tough and the ramen comes out, here are a few things I like to keep in mind.

 

1. Sleep comes before work.

Always. If you have to stay up until 3 a.m. then do so, but make sure you get some sleep before class. It’s not worth it to spend the night working on a paper, because how good can something fueled on caffeine, exhaustion, and anxiety be? Not as good something you wrote at 7 a.m., after at least a few hours of crucial napping.

2. No one is forcing you to stay in anything.

Clubs are great for your résumé and pizza intake, but they can suck for your work schedule. The truth is, though, no one is forcing you to stay in them. If you’re in Cooking Club and Knitting Club and Pillow Pets Club and Bronies Club and you realize you can’t catch a break because you promised to watch My Little Pony with the dudes––well, no one says you have to watch My Little Pony with the dudes. It’s okay to quit things, especially if doing so will make you happier in the long run. There will always be other people just as interested in animated horses. You can take a break, you can leave entirely; either way, it’s your life, your sanity, and your choice.

3. You can always ask for an extension.

They might not always say yes, but I haven’t yet had a professor at Kenyon who wasn’t understanding enough to grant a (valid) extension. They understand what you’re going through, too, and I’m sure you both would rather you turned in something you had a little more time on than something you had to rush through because of other obligations (see above: ponies).

4. Nature is the best.

Yes, it’s December, and yes, it’s cold, but trust me: The outside is so much better than pacing around your dorm or apartment. Climb a tree, go fishing, run in circles in a field until you can’t anymore––fresh air and nature are great for the soul, and they also remind us of the importance of stepping away from material reality for a bit. After all, there will always be more to the world than Moodle deadlines and correct MLA citations.

5. Winter Break is almost here!

I don’t know if you’ve realized, but our month-long Winter Break is just around the corner, which can mean different things for different people. In general, though, aside from family and food, the holidays at Kenyon mean several weeks without a ton of homework or stress. Time enough to catch up on work, or on the third season of Orange is the New Black.

6. There will always, no matter what, be more ramen at the market.

Love, hate, and finals come and go, but ramen will always be there for you. ‘Nuff said.

 

College sucks sometimes. That’s the truth of it. There’s always too much to do, always too much expected of you, and never enough time to accomplish anything to the extent that you’d like to. Take a deep breath, though; bring yourself back down to earth. Go for a run, take a nap, prepare your game plan for your holiday shopping––and look at all the people around you, struggling to do the same. Together, we can make college suck less. We can make it something kind of amazing.

 

Image Credit: Fine Art America