We all experience stress, some time or another, many of us on a frequent basis. But as an optimistic 13-year-old heading into college, I could have never anticipated the intensity of it, so much so that feeling stressed is the predominant state of being for a large majority of students at this school.
I am certainly someone who has suffered from the effects of stress. It began leaking into everything I did, was doing, and ever hoped to achieve. I began hating the lifestyle I had created for myself. So, after two laborious years of sacrificing my current happiness for the one that may potentially come someday, topped with the failure of my studies, I finally took a step back and began examining the crushing weight that was my school life. Sure, for most people, the pressure is caused by school work, and I’m no exception. Exam season made me break out in hives, I turned into a demon the night before tests and talking about questions after assessments only sealed my fate of failure. But I soon realised that the biggest factor that contributed to my distress was me. I wanted everything – the co-curriculars, the new friends made, the A*’s. But I refused to acknowledge the time and effort achieving all these would demand from me. Instead, I envied what I didn’t have, resented what I did have, and procrastinated.
Then there was the problem with my work ethic. Prior to ever encountering true exams, I had assumed that studying would be a breeze. Simple. Easy. Oh, how I was wrong. Not paying attention in class turned into the inability to understand an aspect of a subject, and all too soon it snowballed downhill into disaster. There were times in class where I would crack open a textbook, and I would sit in silence for an hour, literally not completing a single question. I felt sick just thinking about all the steps I had to take, not to improve my grade, but just to make sure I passed. So I avoided facing the real problem – my total and utter lack of persistence – and alternately devoted my time to convincing myself that I could cram months’ worth of missed work into mere hours.
So at the start of my eleventh school year, the time I had initially considered to be the prime of my youth I made a monumental decision. I took a step back, looked, really looked at me, my life, everything I had and everything I wanted. I put my tangible happiness first. Not the potential one that wafted somewhere along the road of my future. I mean happiness I legitimately experienced and perceived and felt. Then my roaring bustling chaotic existence. . .stopped. It was as if I switched the mode of my life from ‘full throttle to the moon’ to ‘relaxing stroll in Autumn’ overnight. Everything changed.
First, it was the envy I previously struggled with. I remember watching Lost in Translation, and there was this part when Bill Murray said, “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”. I realised that as soon as I addressed all my hidden wishes for success, I was able to let them go. I was never going to be a social butterfly or someone who could juggle everything at one. Facing these truths allowed me to accept that the person I was and the person I wished to be were two very different things. The stress I had placed on myself was lifted as I came to terms with my expectations. Then there was my perspective. Attitude truly is everything. As soon as I set the goal inside my head to achieve a particular standard for all my work, the determination fueling my actions meant that procrastination was (eventually) overcome. Studying was never going to be easy, but I wanted to attain a better grade more than I wanted to watch Mamma Mia! for the twentieth time. That revelation made picking up those textbooks that much easier.
I’ve learned that stress isn’t the terrible, unconquerable demon I’d thought it was. It can be managed, controlled, tamed. Exams certainly are not healthy benefactors, but they don’t dictate your happiness. You do. Your outlook on life ultimately determines the amount of stress in it.
I’m not saying that a positive attitude banishes all possible pressure from your life. Stress will always exist; at school, at work, within our families. But you can control the influence it has over you, and whether or not you succumb to it. Our attitudes and perspectives can surely defeat what’s become the high school norm of being swaddled in homework and tests. It does not have to dictate our happiness and attitude. Live, have fun, do more of the things you love. I know I certainly will be.
Written By: Cassandra Liu. Edited By: Tara Jackson.