During junior year, I was all about using my time wisely.
I planned out everything I was going to do a week ahead of time. The only thing that prevented me from “penciling people in” was that I preferred the permanence of ink in my planner.
Between class, studying and clinical hours in the hospital, I was rarely able to see my housemates and other friends, but I made sure to make good use of my time when I did see them by complaining loudly about how difficult my life was.
I was not necessarily saying my life was harder than theirs, but I wasn’t not saying that either.
The rants would usually end when I heard what I wanted to hear: “We know, your life is so much harder than ours.”
After stripping the sarcasm from the statement, I was able to polish off the proclamation and throw it in my pocket.
Even though it was a joke, I really believed it. In some senses it was difficult not to be envious of those around me, as it was not uncommon for me to go to sleep after my housemates and wake up before them.
However, amidst all the craziness of last year, I received a wake up call. One day, when two of my housemates were going to class, I made a comment about not knowing they had class at that time. One of them smirked and asked, “Do you even know what class I’m going to?”
To get a good look at my odds here, this housemate of mine was in four classes, three of which were various geographies. Knowing my chances, I smiled and said, “Geography.”
Laughing, and somewhat pleased, my housemate declared that I was wrong, and it was in fact the one class that was not geography.
When I asked if she knew what class I had that day, both of them preceded to tell me my entire schedule, Monday through Friday.
Once they left that day I just sat down, overwhelmed. I always prided myself on having equality in all of my friendships, both give and take. But I had become so ridden with stress and anxieties from school that I allowed them to infiltrate my relationships, causing me to monopolize the majority of conversations.
It was almost as if others no longer felt comfortable enough to confide in me their problems because my unfiltered stream of consciousness drowned them in an ocean of frustration and boredom.
Realizing and acknowledging my selfishness, I was finally able to understand something: the relativity of stress. Everyone has some level of stress and it cannot always be determined by a brief assessment of his external surroundings.
So what if you have three exams in a week and your friend is more concerned with the exact hour it becomes socially acceptable to drink? Lack of productivity does not necessarily correlate to lack of stress; sometimes it is even a stressor in its own right.
In nursing, we are constantly asked, in terms of our prospective patient, “What is pain?” And we robotically respond, “What the patient says it is.” We don’t even have to think about it.
It doesn’t matter if patient A is crying, screaming in pain and says he is a three (out of 10), and patient B — who is adamantly arguing the validity of Maury’s paternity test — announces her pain is a 10. Pain is what the person says it is.
And so is stress. Everyone has different types of stress, whether apparent to us or not. When you see yourself starting to play the game (“You think that’s hard, you should try having an 8:30 a.m. class three days of the week”), just stop while you’re ahead.
You’re never going to win a game that doesn’t exist. That’s because we’re not in college to competitively lose our minds; we’re here to gain perspective.