By Byron Jones
You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. So true. It doesn’t just apply to horses though. It applies to me. It applies to you.
You, dear reader, are the metaphorical horse. I am the person trying to bring you to water. Once you get there my hope is that you might take a drink. Even a sip will do. There is no need to read every word I have written or to remember them all. There is no quiz waiting at the end of this. Any lecture that I attend, movie I see, or conversation I have with a good friend gets the same treatment on my end. I enjoy it, but forget at least 90% of it. However, there maybe 10% that resonates with me. Sometimes, that 10% is enough to change my day from good to bad or alter the way I try to accomplish something. Hopefully there is a small percentage of what I say that can help. Here we go.
Everybody on campus is dealing with stress. We have class, athletics practices or competitions, club activities, internships, and there are a million others I don’t know about. We are busy and along with that comes stress. The question is: what do we do about it?
We’re not going to drop the activities that we chose to do. We chose them dammit. It means that we like them or think they’ll benefit us now or down the road. Maybe we overestimate how much we “have” to do or how big the benefit will actually be, but in the end we elected to go on this stressful adventure and head out the door every morning.
As we continue down the winding road we’re on, all we can do is find ways to be happy. Getting that ‘A’ or making the varsity team or seeing the play or event go successfully is oftentimes a great reward and makes everything worth it. Again, I’m talking about what to do in the meantime. Going from point A to point B. The journey.
Taking a step back is a way to look at the big picture. Tens of thousands of people say that each day, but it’s a pretty good way to detract from some of the stress. If you get a ‘B’ on a big test…what do you do? I know a lot of my friends (and myself in the past) get upset and start to worry about GPA and resumes. Well, something that you can ask yourself (and ask yourself this seriously…) is, “Will I remember getting a B on this exam when I’m 40 years-old?” Most of us would say no. I think all of us should say no to this. If you do remember a B on a chemistry test or Lit Hum paper then I see one of two scenarios. One, you have a phenomenal memory and your life is very dull and you have way too much free time to reminisce. Two, you are looking back on your academic life at Columbia after achieving your dream job and laughing at the B’s that you got and wondering why you worried so much. It will more likely be the latter of the two.
If asking yourself a question like that doesn’t quite cut it for you, then maybe just relaxing and thinking about what you can change next time will help. You get a B or a C, maybe you don’t make the cut for varsity, or perhaps you don’t get elected chair of that student club. It sucks and it stings. If you know you watch 3 hours of Breaking Bad instead of studying or went galavanting through SoHo instead of preparing for your speech for the chair position,that is where you can make the change. What if you studied efficiently and weren’t distracted? How do you make a change then? Your guess is as good as mine my friend.
That’s not meant to be a “You’re shit out of luck” statement. It just means that you did what you thought was best. You know yourself better than anyone else. If you tried your best then you did all you could. Take a few deep breathes, grab your favorite coffee, and go relax for an hour. Sulking will defeat the purpose. Reward yourself for trying hard and take a break. From everything. Get up after the hour and look at the whole situation. Maybe try to think of a better study plan. Perhaps you should’ve done “this” or “that” a little differently. All you can do – if you really gave it a good effort or even your best effort – is to try to make sure that your next best is better than your last.
We’re all pretty talented and driven individuals at this university. Someone telling you to try to smile more, be more optimistic, or give hugs just might not cut it. I think all those things help and do them myself. I just know that you and I have heard all those suggestions before. You’re not dumb. If they would’ve worked for you, then you would’ve done them already. If they actually would help and you haven’t yet…well smile at some friend and then steal a hug! If not, then hopefully some new advice here has helped.
If you didn’t work as hard as you could’ve then fix that. Don’t beat yourself up, because the past is past. It’ll only detract from the next thing you have to do (I still struggle not to beat myself up over “could’ve” or “should’ve”). If you worked hard and gave it your best then reward yourself with a little relaxation. Still didn’t get the result despite all your work? Sometimes that happens. It sucks and is hard. Try to stay as level as you can and then get after it the next time.
If you really think about it we are the only ones that can make ourselves feel something. Embarrassed, happy etc. If you don’t want to feel nervous, sad, or disappointed, then practice getting yourself out of those moods. We are also the only ones that can make ourselves work and therefore achieve our goals and desires. Work on finding ways to motivate yourself. Ultimately it’s you that has to do these things.
Here is the water, dear horse. Drink if you will.