The Stress of History
I sit down at my desk in my dorm. I start to stare straight ahead at my blank wall, just thinking to myself about how stressed I am about school. As I’m sitting in my chair at my desk, I slowly start to feel weighed down. As I open my laptop, I look at the time. Instantly, I feel a wave of anxiety, stress, and fear. I realized I have a5,000-word paper for Medieval History due by midnight and it is 5:17pm. How will I finish this in time? If I don’t finish it in time, should I hand it in any way? What percentage of my grade depends on this paper? I grab my black Jansport backpack and rush toward the common room in my building to have a quiet place to start writing my essay.
As I am walking to the common room, I start to feel like I am not in reality. I look at the yellow walls and I feel them slowly caving in on me. I then run faster and faster in hopes of the wall not crushing me. As the hallway is getting slimmer and slimmer, I begin to hear voices. I do not know who is talking to me, but they’re telling me, “Hurry up! You’re running out of time!” I feel myself moving in slow motion, like I am being held back and continue moving in the same spot. My black Jansport backpack that once felt weightless has now gained weight and feels like it now contains bricks. The backpack contains multiple zippers that look as if they are about to bust wide open from the things inside. I try to take it off to look at what is inside, but I can’t. My backpack feels like it is glued onto me.
History is a very challenging subject for me. I find the subject to be boring, uninteresting, and very overwhelming when trying to remember specific dates, periods, and events. Knowing that this subject is what I have to write a massive essay about made me worry. I also feel the need to write with perfection for the first time, which is a flaw of mine. When I do write well on my first try, it seems better than writing out an outline of what I want the essay to say. By not writing an outline for an essay, I am able to write whatever comes to my mind first. This can sometimes be beneficial and other times it can hurt you.
While walking down the yellow hallway, I feel heavier with every step as I get closer to the common room. I can feel myself almost falling backwards due to the weight of my black backpack. I hear a deep dark voice. This voice is very angry at me. It starts saying, “Why are you even trying to finish it? You don’t even understand the subject! Why bother writing the essay when you know you won’t succeed!”
These words start to impact the way I am feeling. I think to myself, This voice is right. I know very little about this concept. Why should I try? What is the point? I should just accept that this essay can’t be done.
This voice is pestering me with hateful words. This voice continues as I walk my path to the common room. As I pass the yellow walls, blue carpet, and the musty smells of my dorm building, I realize something: this voice is familiar to me and I have heard it before. This voice is my writing teacher from high school. This teacher had a very negative effect on me due to always reminding me of my failures in writing. My insecurities about my writing began with this person.
Am I supposed to listen to this voice or ignore it? I start thinking to myself about all of my
writing accomplishments. I remind myself of when I needed references from teachers and professors to apply for a4+1 program. All the references I have read spoke of me highly. They stated I am hardworking and have the performance level needed for writing to be accepted to a master’s-level program. These professors believe in my writing and myself.
The voice is getting angrier. It is telling me that the professors who find me to be impressive are only lying tome.
I finally reach the common room. I find a chair I feel is comfortable and prepare myself for the long night ahead of me. I am eventually able to take my backpack off. I feel a weight off my shoulders. I take my bag and prepare myself to open one of the various zippers my Jansport backpack has. I open the main zipper and I look inside of my bag.My emotions are spilling out: stress, fear, and resentment.
As my emotions are slipping away, I slowly start to come to find peace within myself. I start to hear a man’s voice that sounds familiar. I try to find where the voice is coming from, but I can’t. While searching for the person I recognize the voice: Mr. Callahan. I realize the physical presence of him is not there, but I can still hear his voice.
Mr.Callahan was my dual enrollmentSociology teacher at Lowell High School. I had a hard time creating topics to write about in class and starting the essay. He started to tell me, “Why are you doubting yourself? You are a fabulous writer when you believe in yourself!”Mr. Callahan is a teacher I look up to and do not take his advice lightly. He taught me to never look at writing as a negative thing and that it is a beautiful way to write the way I think is the best way for it to be. This is why he was one of my favorite teachers.
After hearing my past teachers’ voices,I become prepared for a challenge: to accept my writing as it comes. Once the emotions have escaped, I decide to look into my black Jansport backpack. It is very dark and gloomy. It feels like it’s a hole that never ends. I then see two bottles inside of it. One bottle is glass and purple. The liquid inside of the bottle seems like coffee. If you know me, coffee makes me happy. I like to drink it as I do homework, tests, go to work, etc. Once I noticed it was actually coffee, I became overwhelmed with joy.
I then take a look at the second bottle. This time, the bottle is dark green and also glass. I look inside of it and notice it is a candle. I also like to light a candle when doing any sort of work for school to enjoy the smell. The specific smell of this candle is fresh and clean, my favorite smell.
I decided to grab a coffee mug that says, “Strive for greatness!” from the common room kitchen and take it back to my seat. I then pour the coffee into the mug. As I am over there, surprisingly,I find a candle lighter. I walk back to my seat, open the dark greenbottle that contains the candle, grab the candle out of the bottle, place the candle on the table, and light it with the light blue candle lighter. This candle specifically reminds me of home. It is where I feel the most safe and is also where I write the best pieces of writing I have ever accomplished.
I settle into my bright red chair in preparation for a long night’s work ahead. I start to feel that I have the courage to take on the writing task. As Mr. Callahan says, “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” I take my laptop out of my laptop section of my black Jansport backpack, log in to my Canvas account and GoogleDocs, and read over the writing assignment.
As I re-read the assignment, my mind starts flowing with possibilities for what my paper could entail. I also click on the class syllabus to make sure the teacher doesn’t accept late work.Working on a paper that has a deadline makes it harder on myself. It makes me think I can never finish it and I procrastinate on doing it, but I am finally doing it, which is all that matters.
As I look on canvas at my writing assignment, I notice that the teacher has extended the deadline. I start to think to myself, The deadline is now extended for twelve hours. Do I wait and do it tomorrow morning? Or do I doit now and be done with it? I then remember why I am at school in the first place. I take a moment and realize I came to school to succeed and cannot succeed without trying at anything. Even though it is extended, I am striving for greatness and
decide to continue on with the paper.This may be challenging, but nothing is impossible when
you put your mind into it.
I begin writing the long paper I have to conquer. I start to hear the voices again about how I am a failure and to give up and that no matter what I write, it simply will not be good enough. I try to ignore them, but the voices continue to degrade me. I finally take deep, slow breaths and try to focus on them. I start thinking of how long this assignment will take me once again and about all the other things that I have to do after this. Surprisingly, I started to focus on my breathing again, but this time paying closer attention to the in and out breaths for a longer period.
This time it works. I write nonstop. The sentences I am creating are flowing out of my mind. It is almost as if I knew what to write the whole time. I recognized that I am an amazing writer and that my negative thoughts were only hurting my writing.
I look at my backpack and I notice it changing. The zippers on my black Jansport backpack that were once about to break from all my emotions are now open. I can slowly see my emotions seeping out of the bag and disintegrating into the air along with the negative thoughts. I then start to see green long stems coming out of the zippers that seem to belong to a flower. Slowly, I see the bulb that forms flowers come out of the green stem. They eventually fully form and bloom into beautiful flowers. Where there once was a gloomy, dark space, it is now flourishing with beautiful white, orange, and yellow tulips. It is amazing to see tulips. They are my favorite flower and exemplify change.
Noticing these specific flowers makes me feel content, knowing I have changed my way of thinking of writing. I can finally say I have found ways to make writing an enjoyable experience,especially when you are required to do it.
After about three hours, I fantastically finished my 5,000-word essay. While doing this was hard, I was able to accept all the challenges I was facing. I wrote what was on my mind. The paper flows perfectly from expressing what I have learned throughout my history course to comparing it to my own personal experiences. I am happy to say that I have finally conquered my fear of writing about history.
Julia Sullivan is a nineteen year old sophomore at Salem State University in the United States. She is studying psychology in hopes to become a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst. In addition to her studies, Julia works for the athletic department at Salem State University and as a hostess at a restaurant. In her down time, I likes to see friends and go shopping.