I was writing a letter to someone after watching their video on anxiety, and the more I wrote, the more I realized how important of a topic anxiety is and how little we pay attention to mental health.
The closer I get to graduation, the more and more stressed out I get. I’m not stressed about not being able to find a job, I can work hard for that. I’m not stressed about becoming an adult, that’s inevitable. What I am stressed about is trying to handle all of this at once. I can tackle my priorities and responsibilities, that’s not the issue at all. What is the issue is that students are expected to go to school to get a diploma while at the same time working full or part-time jobs, doing extracurricular activity, taking on different level classes, maybe even four to six classes per term, while taking internships (most of which are unpaid and require you to have previous internship experience, I mean, isn’t that why I’m applying!??!?!?), and students are expected to do all of this while keeping at least a 3.0 GPA, somehow have a social life (because you know, we’re still young, honey! You need to enjoy your early-20’s!), and a personal life. How are all of these tasks supposed to be expected from us when we don’t even know how to file our taxes, or what a 401K is, or if we should be taking out subsidized or unsubsidized loans. We don’t know how to properly study because the educational system allowed us to rely on memorization and inevitable laziness or lack of interest on the teachers part as the year progresses. Lack of importance on organization skills and real-life skills in high-school, or hell, even my first two years of college, are main components of these everyday stressors. We grow up being told we have to go to school so that we can get into a good university, then get a good job that’ll lead you into a good career so that you can then build a family and live a comfortable life. But no one goes into the specifics. No one tells you how challenging and complicated it’ll be. No one tells you what your priorities should be, because when you have an eight hour shift and a 10-page paper due that same night, should we prioritize our schooling or our job that will give us the paycheck to pay for our schooling?
There are many things I disagree with the educational system, like not teaching students important skills that they will need outside of high-school, not preparing students unless they seek for the help. Which is understandable, but at least give the class the opportunity and tools to seek for help, because how can I ask for help if I don’t even know WHAT it is I’m asking for? But I digress.
Mental health is a serious issue that a lot of young people struggle with. Anxiety is one of the most common things I am able to relate with my peers about. Isn’t that sad? What kind of community are we in that we don’t think of mental health as an actual health issue. What kind of community are we that we don’t give those tools and resources for our youth to find ways to deal with their anxiety, while at the same time dealing with their responsibilities and priorities.
I am a good student. I have a 3.0 GPA. I work. I’m building my credit. I turn in my work on time. I do what it is that I have to do to get by. But that’s not enough for me. It’s not enough because I also am finding ways to build my resume, applying to internships that I know I’m not qualified enough for, applying for jobs that I am overqualified for, signing up for required classes that cost more than what I get in one paycheck. It’s hard. I know that. I also know that it’s only going to get harder than this, and I am totally okay with that. I am okay with it because I know that in ten, maybe fifteen years from now, I will have a steady job with a steady paycheck, an average home and an average life. For what? So I can pay off my student loans, work somewhere that I am not even intersted in, but am there because it pays the bills. So I can enjoy having weekends off and delve in office culture like making jokes about “hump-day” and saying things like, “Mondays, right?”
That’s what I’m working for, and I won’t have it. I won’t have it because I know that I can go further than an “average” life. But it’s not always like that. My anxiety doesn’t let me think like this all the time, it doesn’t let me think about the good things that can happen because I am so focused and overwhelmed with what’s on my plate right now that I can’t even think about the good, all I can think about is: How am I going to pay for summer classes? What are ways that I can build my GPA to join the honors society so it’ll look good on my resume? How do I make more time for school while at the same time finding ways to make more money? These are all questions that pass through my head almost every day, and that’s not the beginning.
I wish there were ways to overcome anxiety, but the more I deal with it, the less ways I think of that being an option. Anxiety is the worst feeling because once it overcomes you, it feels as if a dark cloud is creeping up on you, your chest begins to feel heavy and your heart races. Your eyes hurt from fighting back the tears and your jaw clenches. You might be driving to work, or you might be at home. You might have felt fine five minutes ago, or you might have gone a week without any other those bad or weird feelings. That’s the thing about anxiety, it’s never clear or consistent. Anxiety comes up whenever it wants to and stays for as long as it wants to. Or as long as we will let it. I want to be able to say that I can overcome my anxiety when I get it, but I can’t right this moment. Maybe soon, hopefully. But I can only hope at this point, because my real priorities and responsibilities won’t let me consider my anxiety as a priority or a responsibility.