By now, most college students have the luxury of taking a break from all the stresses of school: exams, projects and even all that fast food you’re forced to eat. We all can relate to the dread the end of each semester brings and the infamous Finals Week that comes along with it. With the stress of the looming holidays compounding the anxieties about test grades, students have little time to worry about anything else than what they immediately face.
However, this past finals season, I faced far greater stressors.
Prior to finals week, I felt ready to take on the challenge. Juggling a part time job, multiple extra curricular activities, a full class load and maintaining my health and fitness goals had prepared me in terms of managing my time. I knew exactly how I’d prepare for my tests and essays while still staying on top of my other responsibilities and adhering to my typical sleeping schedule. If anything, I felt excited to complete this quarter, as I felt confident in my ability to tackle the challenge. As a bonus, I eagerly awaited my Winter Break trip to Singapore, my first international trip.
One week before finals week began, my mother called to inform me that she would have to fly to Pennsylvania, as my grandfather’s health deteriorated.
As such, she couldn’t pick me up from school as we originally planned. I didn’t know how to feel; I felt numb. I also worried about how my other family members would feel once they heard the news. Not only did I have to deal with the emotional toll of a family emergency, but I had to figure out how to get home for the holidays and maintain my studying schedule for finals.
I drudged on through the week, attempting to bury my worries beneath the surface so as not to bother my already stressed friends. I didn’t want them to worry about me, as they had their own responsibilities to focus on. I could see how hard they worked on their studies—their dedication to earning a sufficient grade and their nerves surrounding how they might perform on their tests. I felt that their success held more importance than my well–being. I simply did not want to burden them with my problems when they so clearly had their own challenges to face.
As a result, I bottled everything up, slipping up on some of my own responsibilities in the process.
I neglected to study as much, opting for laying in my bed alone with a comforting cup of tea instead. I didn’t respond to any text messages or any notifications that appeared on my phone. When I did come around to fulfilling my academic and work-related responsibilities, I felt better, as I could ignore what so bothered me at every other moment. Even so, finals didn’t serve as the most important thing in my life at this point. Tending to my emotional tolls and ensuring that I could spend time with my loved ones at home mattered more than sticking to my finals schedule.
Once I realized this, I decided to share what I felt with my friends. Cutting them off would only cause them more stress, as I normally would talk to them in a happy-go-lucky manner. Sharing how I felt would help them understand that even if in the moment I didn’t feel great, I would eventually return to my normal self. What else are friends for?
After reaching out, things got better.
One of my best friends offered to make the seven hour drive from Sacramento to pick me up from school for the holidays. My other friends offered their support in smaller ways by checking up with how I felt periodically throughout the week and by simply listening to my response. Going through this experience helped illuminate the truly important things in life: fostering positive relationships with people you love. Not only did I now understand a greater truth, but I used this greater truth to help me survive a difficult season of my life. As such, I feel better equipped to face any other challenges and help my friends and family through their own challenges.