Refuse back-to-school blues

A few weeks ago as I was preparing to move into a new apartment and begin the new school year, I went to Staples to stock up on school supplies. As a child, nothing excited me more than the prospect of humming and hawing with my dad about which pencil case would go best with my recently purchased binders. 

Back-to-school time was just about the most exciting part of my year. It wasn’t just the new purchases that excited me; my excitement was almost entirely tied to my undying love for school itself. 

My recent trip to Staples was considerably less enjoyable than trips past. I spent no more than 10 minutes in the store, quickly grabbing the cheapest supplies I could see and then rushing out, the panic in me already beginning to rise. While school supply shopping once evoked feelings of joy and anticipation, it’s now a stress-causing reminder that school is just around the corner.

That’s not to say that I’m dreading my classes, or that I don’t find my area of study interesting. It’s just that the stakes are a lot higher now (something that my nerves are quite aware of).

My generation is often painted as careless and carefree, but I think the real problem is not that we care too little, but that we care about too many things. In my experience, it’s rare to find a student who doesn’t have multiple extra-curricular obligations, a part-time job, athletics or all of the above on top of their busy course load.

I’m certainly not alone in dealing with this problem, and I think it’s become expected for post-secondary students and even secondary students to feel tense at the thought of school. In the previous issue of the Journal I wrote about stress, and I find it hard to think of a student who wouldn’t benefit from the advice offered in the article.

It’s easy to suggest in the mellow days before classes start that what students really need to do is take a deep breath or something equally useless, but what I think students do need to do is put things in perspective.

I think back to the sleepless nights in high school that I spent powered by nothing but Red Bull and adrenaline, and I have to shake my head at my nearly driving myself into a state of panic over assignments that mattered little in the grand scheme of things. On top of that, I can look back at the work that I stayed up all night to finish and note that it likely would have been much better had it not been completed in a caffeinated frenzy.

University assignments are obviously worth a great deal more than those in high school, but a single assignment rarely makes or breaks a student’s academic career, and the stress of worrying about such things usually does the most harm of all.

Everyone knows that university is challenging and sometimes tedious, but with the right attitude I think it can also be exciting and stimulating. I may not have adopted this attitude entirely yet, but I hope that as my studies go on I can gradually put my stress and fear at bay and learn to love school again.

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