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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Anticipation of future trials pervades life at liberal arts colleges

< since I’ve been at Carleton, which has been only two terms and five weeks, I’ve felt stressed. I don’t think it is anything unique from any other liberal arts college though.

When I talk to my friend at Williams I sense her stress through the phone. As college students, we always have work to do for classes, for clubs, or sports, making stress a normal thing in college. It is something everyone experiences at different levels. 

It’s actually pretty weird because I am so used to stress at Carleton that whenever something is going well or when I don’t feel pressed for time, I feel like something is wrong.

The fact that I feel anxious when I am not stressed says something about the normalization of experiencing stress. I have the urge to start working ahead so I won’t have a lot of work to do the next day. Stress is inevitable and something you can’t run away from in college, or at least that’s what Carleton makes me feel like. 

One day in Ballet, my class was moving really slow to get set up for our next activity. I remember Jennifer Bader, senior lecturer in Dance, mentioning she could tell it was week three because everyone was busy and had their mind somewhere else.

I was surprised that she knew by our facial expression what week we were on. By week three all classes are pretty much getting more intense and the stress levels are higher than first week. It was interesting to see how faculty members notice stress and are aware of this culture at Carleton. 

Stress at Carleton revolves around our future. I think about what career path I want to take (I’m not even an upperclassman!), how the effort I put in a class will affect my GPA, how getting ahead today will help me tomorrow, etc.

The stress culture in college definitely makes me forget to live in the moment at times, but I have to constantly remind myself that I need to live in the present. It is also something my dad reminds me of when I call home stressed over the number of papers I have to write or big projects that are coming up.

Of course, it is important to think ahead and not make poor decisions that could affect your future, but it’s nice to let loose every once in a while and pay the price for having fun one day. 

At Carleton, you can have fun every weekend, but it doesn’t mean that the stress is gone. It comes back the next day, when you are sober and you either regret last night or you’re grateful for it, but now it’s “grind time.”

You can be caught up one week or one day, and then next thing you know, you are behind once again. I think it’s completely normal and although I still get stressed, I’ve learned how to handle it better. I know that not everything can get done for all classes sometimes, but that’s just part of the experience.

Stress makes things happen. Without that anxiety that stress brings, then we would have no urgency.

However, I will admit stress slows you down at times because you are so focused on all that you have to do that you can’t even focus on the work at hand. It’s finding that right amount of stress in order to be able to work efficiently. 

Stress is interesting, and it says a lot about Carleton as a whole. I know having a stress culture may seem negative, and it does sound pretty bad, but it’s actually something we should be proud of because it means that we all care.

We care about our classes and making sure that we are staying on top of our work, but also immersing ourselves in other activities and sports that may take up time in our busy schedules.

You may be going crazy when you’re stressed, but just remember that the person next to you is probably feeling the same way. That is the beautiful thing. You are not alone when experiencing stress at Carleton.

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