So, I’m done with the hardest semester ever! That is awesome news and I want to share some thoughts and things I recently learned.
If you’ve been reading my posts this past semester you probably noticed how busy I was, but I don’t think they showed how STRESSED I really was. I was miserable most of the time. I studied and learned A LOT but my marks where not reflecting it. I cried each time I got a bad grade on an exam or got angry while studying if something seemed hard or didn’t make sense. I was in a bad mood quite often and it even started affecting my boyfriend…one day he exploded and told me I had to stop getting angry for nothing. He is the most patient person on earth and he never gets angry, so the fact that he told me that is because it was really getting annoying to be around me.
For a moment I stopped and began asking myself questions. Why was I so stressed? What was the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t do well on a class? Etc, etc, etc.
One of the things that made me feel under pressure was the fact that my parents are paying for my education and scarifying things for it. I talked to them about how terrible the semester was and how stressed I was. Once again, they were super supportive and helped me calm down. So why did the stress continue? Why was I still giving it an extreme importance it maybe didn’t have? That’s when I realized the burden of social pressure.
I’m good at avoiding social pressure. For example, drinking; believe or not I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I also don’t mind being a pescatarian and having people say that “not eating meat must suck!” I don’t mind people’s opinion when I say I would love to dedicate my professional life to blogging, it is what I love and I’ll keep doing it as long as I want. I also don’t mind having my personal (often different) opinion on many topics, but the problem with my studying-related stress had to do with social pressure. I felt trapped by the fact that I had to hurry and finish my bachelor degree, just like my friends.
Some people might say “well, that requires work and depends on you, it’s not that hard”. Well, it has been for me. I even got to the point where I was convincing myself that I had a learning disability. I couldn’t understand how it was possible to study so much and then get a bad mark on a test. At the end I realized I didn’t have any problems with my brain, it was just the fact that I chose a hard degree at a very prestigious university. Sure, it’s not a typical hard career you’d imagine like quantum physics astronaut mechanics (I just made that up), but believe me it is HARD. I was a great student in high school and won medals every year for outstanding grades (which only a small fraction of the students did), so I know my brain is working just fine.
So here’s what I figured out:
In Montreal, most of my friends are older than me. Not extremely old, but their average age is about 26 while I’m only 22. Quite often I hear conversations about their friends getting married or having babies or this or that. Also, most of my favorite blogs are run by people older than me, so they, too, are in a different life stage than me. The thing is I like being surrounded by people older than me; I don’t feel identified with the typical person in their early 20s getting wasted at a party, doing drugs and/or sleeping with a bunch of people. I sure like to party and I’ve drank 1 or 2 extra drinks on some nights, but I enjoy way more spending time with my friends, playing board games, having “deep” conversations, watching a movies and playing sports. I don’t think I would trade my “mature” friends for anything, but there is a problem with this.
While my friends worry about marriage and babies, I worry about how many of them have already graduated from university (or are about to) while I’m still stuck at it. You must think its silly or that I’m exaggerating, but it really has affected me a lot.
I started thinking more and more about it and I realized that a big part of the stress I feel while studying is due to this. I feel a huge pressure to finish my bachelor degree and being on the life stage that my older friends are in. This pressure whispers in my ear “you better pass all your classes, don’t get behind!” That pressure followed me everywhere. I couldn’t study without thinking that I was going to fail. I couldn’t go to class and just relax and learn, I had to be anxious about whether this or that was going to be on the exam. I was in a bad mood often because I was waiting to get the mark of a paper. And as I said, this didn’t only affect me but the people surrounding me.
After thinking about this, I realized it was not worth the trouble. Everybody is different and have different experiences, so why would I want to be somewhere else? Trying to fit is a silly thing that hunts many people. In my case it affected me with a lot of stress.
“There are no shortcuts to get to the finish line and if you’re lucky, the finish line will keep moving forward” (Elise Blaha Cripe)