Just a year ago, I was probably the most stressed out that I’ve ever been in my 18 years of life. Application deadlines were quickly approaching, homework was piling up as I prioritized “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” over actual productivity and the mass of things that had to be taken care of during senior year of high school all fell upon me at once. It was rough, and it got to the point where I was just counting down the days until it was all over.
But even then, I still didn’t even know exactly what I was counting down towards. Sure, college application season was going to end eventually, and I knew I would graduate a few months later, but it wasn’t as if all of the problems I would ever have were confined to that specific time period alone.
There’s never a time when there’s not something to worry about, as evidenced by a journal I keep called “The Happiness Project.” In it, I write a sentence a day over a span of five years. I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve neglected keeping up with it for a couple of weeks and have had to frantically search my photos, text messages and Snapchat memories with the hopes of finding something to remind me of what I even did or was thinking on a certain day, but regardless, I’ve been finding that the same trend has been present throughout.
In April of 2016, I wrote about how awful my day was because I felt like I was drowning in all of the work I had, and about how many things I had to fret over. Then, in September, just a few months later, I said pretty much the exact same thing. But in both cases, on that same date a year later, my day then was on the completely opposite end of the spectrum, with my sentences detailing some accomplishment or exciting moment instead.
Comparing the two has put a lot of things in perspective for me. As college students, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I haven’t even been on campus for a month yet, and I already feel like I’ve fallen behind somehow. There’s always something to do, and even if I feel like I’m free, I’ve probably forgotten something.
While most of my daily sentences thus far have been about how wild dorm storm was or how it feels like I’ve known the people here for three months rather than three weeks, there are still some panicked scrawls about being weighed down for days by my indecisiveness over dropping a class, or about the hundreds of pages of reading that I found myself buried under because I chose to socialize instead of getting work done. But it’s okay.
From flipping through my journal, I’ve come to realize how most of the things are that I pull my hair out over are temporary. Realistically, we can all find something to agonize over on any given day. But how much of it will really last for longer than the few days or weeks that we spend thinking about it until we take care of whatever it was and find something else to take its place? How much of it will matter in a month, or two, let alone by the end of our time here at Stanford?
For me personally, it’ll probably always be just a little satisfying to throw myself a pity party and cry it all out every now and then. But rather than wallowing in the stress of all of these short-term problems, which ultimately does nothing but stress me out even more, I’m going to start just taking care of them and moving on. This will allow me to make time to appreciate the little things in the day that made me happy, rather than focusing all of my attention on the worries trying to take control of my thoughts, mood and mentality. And I think everyone should at least try to do the same, even if it only lasts for a week.
As someone who thought she was going through a one-eighth-life crisis in seventh grade when she had a diorama to construct and a two-hour soccer practice to go to all in one night (the horror!), I know I’ve worried too much. But I’m in college now; I’m not trying to have nails bitten down to stubs and bald spots by the time Frosh Formal rolls around, so those days of distress are over. From now on, I’ll be taking everything one day at a time. A lot can change in 24 hours — by tomorrow morning, you could change your mindset.
Contact Kassidy Kelley at kckelley ‘at’ stanford.edu.