I'm Not Depressed, It's Just October
“I don’t know what’s with me lately. I’m just so stressed about everything and I know I’d feel better if I cried it out, but I’m just not any good at crying. And I’ve kind of had this urge lately to throw Christmas bulbs at a wall, but I don’t have the time or money for that. Shoot! I should be working on my presentation due Monday! I hate that I just don’t have time to invest in everyone’s lives, and my fridge is empty, and everything needs to be cleaned, and dangit why does my life sound like lyrics to a Simple Plan song? Wait, is it October?” “Yes.”
“Ohhh—never mind. This is normal, I just need a nap.”
Once every fall, I fall apart. It’s not until at least three weeks into this that I come to the realization that my world isn’t actually ending—I just got busy.
A lot of us fit into that horrible university paradox: if I have too many classes or commitments, I freak out and never have time for sleep or friends, but if I take only a few courses per semester, then I get lazy and also end up with no time for sleep or friends. There really is no escape from the craziness of life; it’s not going to suddenly become easy. To top it off, a lot of us fall into negative habits that actually make it harder for us, like blaming other people or things. We may be aware it’s not fair to say your professor is “just the worst” for assigning you a paper when you’re already packed that week, but we do it anyway. Surprise: complaining doesn’t really make it better. Don’t blame the class, school, province, country, world, or universe because you have too much to do. More importantly, don’t blame you. You need to be the number one person on your team.
Timothy Galloway, in his book The Inner Game of Tennis, describes the relationship in which you talk to yourself as being divided into two parts: Self One (the teller), and Self Two (the doer). He goes on to discuss that just as it becomes harder to succeed if your teacher is demanding and discouraging, the same goes for the way we talk to ourselves. He explains that people are more successful when they are “in the zone,” or when Self One stops saying, “Do it, Amy. Come on! Just do it!” and just allows Self Two to be free.
Just accept it as is. It’s just October; it’s that time of year. The buzz of a new school year is fading, and the work is getting heavier. For freshmen, your confidence in your university decision may be seriously declining. I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t actually get easier. Like I said, every year I forget this is going to happen to me until it does. You do, however, get better at fighting it; you learn about yourself. Self-awareness is your greatest tool. Every semester you’ll learn your limitations in how much you can tackle. You’ll get an idea of how many credits, jobs, activities, and clubs you can commit to in one semester. That makes it sound very idealistic, like, “oh, me, oh my! Look how much I’m learning about myself! I can do anything!” But actually—that’s what university is for, right? Worst-case scenario, you burn out and you don’t succeed in your classes. I’m not encouraging that, but remember that this is the worst that could happen to you this October. Knowing where the line is where you burn out is extremely valuable information for your future. If you’re going to fail, do it in a teachable environment.
In my second year, a lot of people started telling me to follow my passions, and that you know the things you are really passionate about by what you do in your free time. Well, if that were true, I would be really passionate about Facebook, or, more specifically, doing nothing on the Internet. I decided that was untrue, and began putting a lot of pressure on myself to always be reading good books, having deep and meaningful conversations with people, or watching endless TED talks. And while all these things are wonderful and very enjoyable, it turns out they don’t relax me on a study break. It turns out you can’t give your 100% to every minute of every day, because that’s exhausting! Say it with me: It’s okay to give myself a break. I will be a successful, hardworking human being by allowing myself to relax. Naps, TV, and social media are not always success-killers. I is kind, I is smart, I is important (name that movie!).
And finally, dear reader, resist the temptation to always be busy. It’s important to remember that even though University is where you learn career skills, you also learn life skills. You need to know how to communicate well for every job, and, this may shock you, but you learn most of that through your relationships. It’s because of this you shouldn’t put your friends on the back burner. I’m not saying put them before your classes, but I cannot stress the importance of the influence your friends around you have on the rest of your life. You’re probably aware that you’re changing so much every year; think about the effect your roommates or classmates have had on your ideas so far. You need to make time for them. Wait, take a deep breath, I’m not trying to add one more demand to your midterms week! I’m saying stop saying the infamous friendship killers: “we should hang out sometime,” “we should get coffee sometime,” or “I miss you, we need to catch up!” Stop it. Never again! Bring your planner around with you everywhere if you must, but set tentative dates of relaxation dates with those who are important to you. Give grace and understanding when plans fall through, but you must make your friends a focus in your life. Plus, this gives you something to look forward to in your stress!
You got this, October-sufferers.