Stress Me In

I love my college. The people act with consideration and compassion, the academics keep my mind alive, and the opportunities available continue to amaze me. But all of this – the social life, the challenging schoolwork, the myriad of commitments – comes with a cost: stress.

Guess who got the prefect position for Hufflepuff? We take Harry Potter super seriously here...

Guess who got the prefect position for Hufflepuff? We take Harry Potter seriously here, and I love it.

A few weeks ago I submitted my first paper for a writing-intensive seminar course. I was not wrought with worry; I had written several papers of longer length and with more complex requirements before. But when I got it back I almost bawled: a “B-“. The grade itself did not bother me as much as what the letter implied, like a lack of knowledge, a weakness in thinking, or some defect in what I’ve held as my talent all throughout my life. Let’s just say there’s one thing I did in high school that I still do in college, which may or may not be crying while listening to Taylor Swift in my room.

After listening to a TED talk (shown to me by a college friend) I think I’ve learned a little bit about stress. Studies show that stress itself is not bad. However, how we perceive stress determines whether it punches us in the gut or propels us to better and brighter places. If we consider stress as our body’s natural response to an obstacle – that it’s preparing us to plow right through it – then we improve the quality of our lives through our thinking.

A “B-“? That just means that I have much more to learn, that I should pump myself up for the next paper that’s due at midnight today and I haven’t started oh snap time to bring out the soda and junk food. The fact that I haven’t been able to blog as much since college started? Just a sign that I should value each post even more and that I should work more writing time into my schedule. Even the smaller issues that bite and gnaw in the back of my mind create impetuses for inspired action, a conglomeration of motivation to chase meaning.

Memorizing minerals even though I'm an English/Psychology double major: one of the many benefits of a liberal arts education.

Memorizing minerals even though I’m an English/Psychology double major: one of the many benefits of a liberal arts education.

How are you guys doing? I highly recommend you watch that TED talk I linked to – it’s wonderful. What do you guys think of stress? Have any stressful events occurred in your lives lately?

Meanwhile I’m dedicating a decent amount of my time today to responding to blog comments and catching up on other blogs. I’ve read quite a bit in the past few weeks but mostly for school or short story club, which is why I’ve stuck to posting small thoughts on Goodreads. You can check out my thoughts on Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Types by Isabel Briggs Myers, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami, and A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka here, here, here, and here respectively. Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and a great week!

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Stress Me In

  1. Peter

    Another great post, Thomas. I’m intrigued that getting a B caused you stress. B is a great grade, and you should be proud. B is the best grade to get because it keeps your mind open to the fact (and it is a fact) that there is more to say on the subject. An A would just close your mind to the full potential of any answer and you might never reflect on that particular question or topic again.
    I like your comments on stress itself. I wonder if sometimes we unconsciously choose stress, even though it’s not very pleasant – so, by the same token, we can actively choose not to be stressed. Sometimes stress, as you say, propels us along: you need to be slightly stressed if you’re going on stage to sing a solo, say, because that will give you that extra edge of concentration and power; but for most situations i think it’s just crippling and we should just say ‘Boo’ to it and consciously force good thoughts into our minds.
    Milton (the greatest poet after Shakespeare) wrote, ‘The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell a Hell of Heaven.’ I imagine that you still have Paradise Lost on your ‘to be read one day’ list – you have riches in store!

    • I’m starting to see that side of a “B” grade more and more as college progresses, Peter! B’s are not bad – like you say, they show that we did well but can improve. Your thoughts on stress make sense and the Milton quote adds to that effect. I’m going to read Paradise Lost later in the semester for my Brit Lit class; it should be spectacular. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. I remember getting my first B in a college class. And then my first B as an overall course grade. It was tough, but it actually made it easier moving forward. Like the comment above said, in higher-level academics, a B is actually a good grade! I was able to focus more on the learning process without being hung up on maintaining a straight-A average. I still wanted good grades, but it wasn’t as hard the next time I got a B. It just meant I had room to grow and more to learn.

    • You’re so right! B’s do not stand for bad, they just represent that there’s room for improvement even if you did an above average job. Thank you for reading and commenting and for your positive outlook.

  3. Wow thank you for the TED link, that was absolutely fascinating!

    As for your grade, the first assignments are always hard, there’s a massive leap between school and university/collage as cliche as it sounds, and I know it won’t make you feel any better but the aims of the first assignments are to fail – in a way. Your lecturers want to see what you know, what bad habits you’ve picked up so that they know what they’re working with and can tell you how to fix them. You will soon find you improve tremendously. I felt pretty terrible about my first assignment too, but I look back at it now and see exactly what my advisers were talking about! Good luck, Thomas, I wish you destressing, unless it’s the goof kind of course. :)

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it! As for the grade, yeah, I see what you mean – it’s not at all cliche to say that there’s a jump in the level of difficulty from high school to college. To adapt one’s expectations and to continue working hard despite the challenge is the true test, one that I am willing to try my best on. Thank you for the support and for reading and commenting Becky.

  4. I am not keen on stress of the bad, external kind and prefer stress of the self-imposed, internal kind – hence giving up the day job and working for myself, so I can set my routines and get a large amount of work done, but on my own terms. If you try to retain at least some of your “agency”, i.e. starting work far enough in advance that you choose when to do it, etc., then you retain some of the control, which lessens the bad stress.

    And let the blog slide if you need to, or do what I do and take an afternoon to schedule a bunch of them in advance.

    As to the assignment, sometimes if you were very good in school, it’s hard to transition to college work with its slightly different approaches. I remember taking a WWI Poetry course at University because I’d done that for O (at 16) and A (at 18) level and finding that, oh, knowing poems off by heart, not so important now.

    You’re being reflexive about your work and that’s brilliant. Keep up the good work and always seek feedback from your tutors.

    • You’re right that maintaining agency allows for a more proactive approach to challenges. I will do my best to balance my blog, academics, and other activities – your point about the difference between high school and university level assignments speaks to me too. Thank you for reading and commenting and for showing your support!

  5. I think I worked best when I was under pressure in University. Most of my best work came from all pulling off all nighters. That being said it’s not for everyone lol. University is a different ball game from High School. There was only one class that I actually prepared me for University when I think about it. Your grades to drop in your first semester and it’s common for everyone. I was pretty realistic about this when I went. By the time Winter semester starts you get the hang of how University works and then you know how to brace yourself. Ultimately the grade is just a number. It doesn’t’ break or make you. I know that saying don’t stress yourself out too much may seem trivial, but it’ll be alright. It’s very hard to maintain a blog when you’re in University. I can relate to that. Whenever I got some sort of free time all I wanted was to sleep or do nothing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Your readers understand that you’re adjusting to a new chapter in life and while we miss your presence in the blogosphere, we also want you to enjoy your University experience :). Trust me, make sure to enjoy it because they seriously are some of the best years of your life. I don’t think I understood how much you grow in University until I left it.

    Just keep swimming :).

    • Thank you so much for your empathy and for your words of assurance! I agree, from what I’ve viewed thus far the grade drop is a bit prevalent and we are all taking time to adjust. In the end, just like it’s always been, grades do not define a person – they are just guidelines in terms of mastering the material. I am loving it here at college even if this post concerned stress. Thank you again for reading and commenting.

  6. Little Panda

    Now I feel like being a B grade student is rubbish T-T

    A very interesting attitude towards stress. Although one thing that steps in my way is my procrastination… which I feel is due to my perfectionism. I spend ages on a piece of work. Pretending to the teacher that I forgot to bring it in. -_- tsk tsk I’m telling myself off.

    • You shouldn’t feel that way – the point of the post is to prove that a B is a good grade. (:

      I have a friend who has a similar problem. I suppose it just takes some self-realization on your part. Do you feel that the overall quality of your work is lessened due to your procrastination anyway?

      • Little Panda

        I feel it is the quantity of work that is lessened by my procrastination. And if I do have a deadline I hastily do that task without enjoying its progression. And this then leaves me disliking the outcome.

  7. If you think college is stressful, just try imagining graduating with so much student loan debt you have to spend half your life paying it off. Although that doesn’t happen much to philosophy undergraduates I would imagine. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the TED video.!

    • Ha, you have a point! I love philosophy and the philosophy course I’m taking, it’s unfortunate that we don’t live in an age where philosophers are the most respected members of society anymore. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  8. Does stress get to me? Yes, and I do not always handle it well. I used to have an artistic outlet (which helps a lot), but I haven’t really had one in awhile. The blog is to some extent, it is definitely one of the few things that makes me smile and makes me think, though I’ve been bad about keeping up with it lately. I’m glad that school is so awesome and fulfilling for you. I sometimes miss school for that same reason, especially the keeping my brain active part. Right now, I am working FT at a job I’m not terribly fond of (but trying to make the best of – I’ve been here 6 months so that in itself is an accomplishment – as I try to find a job I do want), and trying to keep my 2 year old son and my hubby happy. I volunteer once a week at the library, doing an ESL Conversation program, so that’s part of the way I keep my sanity.

    • It’s great that you recognize your lack of, or need for a new artistic outlet. But you do appear to keep yourself busy with your job, your family, and your volunteering – all of which are conducive to a healthy life in general. Perhaps you can find an online lecture series, a set of books, or some courses at a local college that will help keep you intellectually stimulated? Thank you for reading and commenting!

  9. I’m with you on the grade stress…normally I handle my demanding schedule fairly well, but when I get a bad grade, it just makes me feel so overwhelmed, like I can’t do anything. (I got a C last week. First time in my life. It was horrible.) I’m not sure I can tell you how I deal with stress, except to pick up and move on. I take things one assignment, one class at a time. That way, it’s less to think about at once. Hope things go well for you!

    • I’m sorry about the C, but I admire your strong will for picking up and moving on. That’s how life works, I guess – we have to keep going with our best effort no matter what. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  10. I also got a B- on one of the first essays in college! woo, join the club. It turned out that I overthought it, and now have developed a much more straightforward style. You can throw a lot of the rules that you learned in high school. For example, you can baldly state “This paper will be about.. The next section is about..” which I think is much better for organization than whatever I was taught in high school “to make it flow”.

    Michelle

    • Yes, I’m glad such an intelligent person like you has also grown from getting a B-. The writing style in college is quite different from high school and I feel like I’m learning a lot, which is what is important. Thank you for reading and commenting Michelle!

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