It’s midterm season; the leaves are preparing to fall, and so are our grades. With any luck, it won’t all be too bad. But staying afloat can be tough, and keeping pace with all the other people who look so calm and collected (or even the ones who look dazed and frazzled) can be intimidating. It’s a lot of not a lot of fun, but through constantly being overwhelmed and the moments of sheer panic, there may yet be some good to be found. And by that, I mean more than just the good of being over with it all.
Feeling stress is the best indicator that you still give a crap about the world. Worrying about homework and grades and friends and family means that you still care—it means you haven’t quite given up yet. So if you’ve felt any ounce of stress or have worried about anything in the past week, congratulations: you have not yet achieved nihilism. Which is probably a good thing for yourself and for society.
To be sure, excess stress is unhealthy and full of not good things; I’m certain that’s been pointed out and hammered home enough times. And there is nothing flippant or trivial about real anxiety and overburdening. However, for a lot of us, I feel like we get caught up too easily by the physical and shallow pains of stress. We hate how it feels at 2 a.m. and there’s still a paper to get started, a p-set due the following day, and—oh of course, a midterm as well. And sometimes once the weekend hits, the exhaustion is too much to conjure any real sense of relief—and everything becomes so tiresome.
And all of it is so understandable. Especially on campus, this kind of stress and perpetual workload has become normalized. Either you’ve just become used to it, or you see that since you’re not the only one, that it can’t be too bad. But still, it may be good to back off just a little bit—not even to take it easy, or shave off some stuff from your work grind, but to appreciate the stress. It is one of those crueler gifts, like pain or sadness, but it does make the other times seem that much better, as well as—well, who would work hard if not for a bit of stress, a bit of pressure, and a whole lot of being alive? We have a lot to thank for people and all they accomplished while being stressed. Let’s be glad, at least once in a while, that we don’t always feel like we can take things easy. How dull would everything be…