As the quarter drags on, students become more and more entrenched in the everyday stresses of life. The seemingly mundane, yet unavoidable, routine of class-lab-work-eat-sleep implants itself in our existences day after day, leaving exhausted students with limited time to contemplate their own thoughts about other aspects of their lives.
Ironically, however, this may very well be for the best. Especially if said other aspects induce more stress upon students than the aforementioned subjects, which serve primarily as a distraction from the haunting idea that such stressful routines are undertaken in preparation for the frightening path we call life.
It’s been October for a number of weeks now, and the permeating campus culture of embracing spooky season has reached a new peak. Amidst advertisements for horror nights and scary movie recommendations from Netflix, the true reason my sleep schedule has become, as we shall put it, less than ideal, is the ever-present thought of getting my life together.
It’s 1:00 a.m., and I think about how being a second year student brings an entirely new set of pressures than I have ever experienced. A concept that I’m sure will only get worse as time progresses.
Sleepless nights brought about by schoolwork are scary enough – the idea of not finishing work on time, not doing it well, failing an assignment and class, and therefore my major – without the inevitable spirals of thought that come with it is difficult to avoid.
At 1:30 a.m., I consider how a single night of staying up to an evil hour can sustain these kinds of thoughts and allow it to invade my brain. That feeling of never being good enough lingering in the back of my mind during the day takes on a new power late at night, when my body (and consequently, my thoughts) should ideally be at rest. It’s frightening to be at a school where I’m surrounded by the best of the best. It’s difficult to be at a crossroads of happiness and pressure, seeing my peers receive never-ending streams of internships and jobs and balancing them so well without needing to cry it out. Despite academically doing well, having friends, and being healthy, I cannot help but doubt my choices in life – whether or not I’ll have the same passions for science and writing twenty years from now, or (in this world increasingly populated by millennials entering the workforce) if I’ll have job opportunities for me to pursue, should I successfully get my degree.
Rational thoughts escape somewhere as the clock ticks on to 2:00 a.m., and my feelings are not even contained to myself. I reach out to group messages from old friends to ask how they’re doing, what their plans are, and if they believe in me, late-night thoughts turning into a search for validation. It’s comforting to be told directly that I’m too much in my head, that I am not alone in feeling like I am under too much pressure for too little of an immediate reward. Apparently, everyone up at that late of an hour is up for a reason; it is thus reasonable that others feel this way as well. Therapy sessions at night that quell my initial stress rise it back up again when I realize how much time has passed just by venting about the things responsible for my stress. It’s now 3:00 a.m., and I think about how this new cycle of stress-vent-sleep forms another vicious trail that cyclically repeats itself during exam seasons every quarter.
While there is comfort in having a community, by now, it is 3:33 a.m., an hour that nobody has an excuse to be awake for. The amount of mental gymnastics my brain had to go through to both panic and recover in the span of one night is oddly admirable, and of course just enough to finally make me tired enough to fall asleep.
The spooky part is, I’ll never know when the next onset of crisis will hit, only that over time, somehow, I’ll end up at a temporary peace once again.
Written by Abita Venkatesh