We’ve all heard of “shower thoughts.” You know, the kind where you’re thinking about really existential things and then, all of sudden, you realize that “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” isn’t a second “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” because Charlie inherits the factory in the first movie?
But have you heard of “duck syndrome thoughts”? No? I figured so much. Allow me to fill you in.
Transitioning to college life can be a hard process for anyone. There are so many new people, so many new places and so many new memories to be made. But, in the midst of it all, there’s still the question of who you are and where you’re going in life. It can be a stressful time.
For a lot of Stanford students, the social pressure to appear relaxed and poised at all times despite this stress, though, can be overbearing. Sometimes, students feel like there really isn’t any person to talk about the issues that accompany such a rigorous academic agenda with. I’ve felt this and, after talking to numerous other Stanford freshmen, I’ve come to discover that others have experienced it, too.
How to cope with these emotions, then, holds a different answer for everyone. For some people, taking a thorough shower and applying face masks and getting a manicure help. For others, talking to other people and discovering that they aren’t alone in that they feel overwhelmed can ease the feeling of helplessness. What I’ve discovered helps me the most, though, is just sitting down and thinking through the things that I’m experiencing.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve actually been doing this a lot. Despite all the smog and the cold that has, unfortunately, started embracing Stanford, I’ve been consistently going outside at two in the morning and staring at the stars, just wondering about life and everything that’s been happening. I’ve shed a few tears on the second floor alcove of JRo, and I’ve almost fallen asleep in the hammocks in Stern. With each of these nights, though, I’ve learned to let go – to stop appearing so put together, to stop acting like nothing bothers me. Really, I’ve learned to stop letting the duck syndrome control what I do and how I feel.
Here are my lessons:
1. Planning for the future is good at times – keep track of when things are due and when you have meetings. But not everything should necessarily be planned. Sometimes, you have to live spontaneously. Be grateful for the things that are happening, even if they’re short-term. Every once in a while, just live for the now, because you’ll never be able to return to that moment.
2. Everyone’s been hurt before. Everyone’s experienced pain or tragedy or heartbreak. Some people’s scars just show a little bit more than others. It’s okay to let these scars show – they’ve made you the person you are today. Don’t assume anyone’s living a happier or worse life than you, though. You never know what anyone is going through.
3. What’s happened to you has happened to you. You can’t let that affect what you do tomorrow, though. Sure, you can learn from all the things you’ve lived through, but allowing them to weigh you down throughout life will allow let them continue to have power over you. Don’t give those events and/or those people that power.
4. You’re going to experience rough times. You’re going to cry sometimes and wonder why you’re even crying. But you’re crying because it mattered, and that’s okay. It’s okay to feel things even if you never wanted to – love, failure, heartbreak – because, no matter what, there’s always something to be learned.
5. Don’t settle for less than you deserve, and don’t stay in relationships hoping everything will work out the way you want it to. Express your emotions, and stand up for how you feel. Don’t just settle for people because they’re there – find people who actually want what’s best for you and will stand by you until you achieve it.
6. You can’t overthink everything you do. People make mistakes and so will you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Down the road, you’ll be able to look back at everything you’ve done and smile – at least you made the memories.
Our time at Stanford is short, and to spend all that time worrying about grades and extracurriculars and people would be a waste. So, let go of the stress a little. Sit back and reflect on what you’ve learned and wake up in the morning looking at the day as a fresh start. Don’t let the duck syndrome be a mask – let it be a reality.
Contact Damian Marlow at ddrue ‘at’ stanford.edu.