DEAR FIRST-YEARS, OR WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

By on March 25, 2018 in Columns

journal

As a current second-year student, I’m supposed to be struggling amidst the flaming, burning hell that comes with KG – at least if in accordance with the stories told by teachers and third-years. Yet, this time of the year has never felt more relieving. Looking back at my first year, I was utterly disorganized, insecure, and my confidence was at rock bottom. I also struggled with my social life, and was panicking over the fact that I was panicking and crying during certain tests, or after receiving decent results after writing an essay. What is my recipe for success then? Well, it isn’t that simple, but here below are some advice that my first-year self could’ve needed.

I have come to realize that tension isn’t something that only builds up individually, but collectively as well. There are few instances in which classes haven’t complained or magnified the scale of upcoming tests, projects or essays from time to time, and I’m certainly not innocent. What people often don’t realize is the power of labels such as “stress”, “exhaustion” and “burn-outs”. I’m not saying that they’re invalid, but that they’re easily overused to the point where they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stress isn’t fun or something to use as an epithet, nor does it give you a golden star or any special credits. Long-term stress has detrimental impacts on your body and psyche, because no living organism can function properly after a period of chronic stress. Instead of competing and stressing each other out, classes should really take the time to communicate, cooperate and help each other, e.g. by sharing notes, doing activities outside of school, and allocate time towards listening to each other, in order to achieve a more sustainable atmosphere. Because greed and getting frantic over grades won’t get you anywhere, and you’re not decreasing your chances of getting an “A” just because you help your classmates. 

Most students at KG probably write several thousand words per week, and although it might seem like a big obstacle and rather tedious activity at times, writing can be very therapeutic when done in bursts. You don’t have to take a creative writing course, or write a novel, but jotting down a couple of sentences on your phone, in a notebook, in Penzu or even writing an article for KZINE can calm your mind. Since it might allow you to reflect on your everyday struggles and what not. However, putting aside your phone 30-60 minutes before going to bed might also be extremely useful as you allow your mind to be present instead of causing a minor heart-attack every time you hear a sudden vibration.

Self-care is another crucial aspect in handling school-life. It can include everything from just appreciating me-time, to cleaning your room and going out on a short run to let off steam. I know that this might come across as some self-help, “zen” kind of advice – but a change in environment can impact your well-being tremendously! Although the feeling of just not having to perform can also be enough. It is more than okay to allow yourself to relax, listen to music and spend some time with your beloved ones or your pet. The ever-glamorous, filtered, frenzied and rushed world of social media very seldom reflects reality, and being aware of just that might be a huge factor of relief too. Another form of practiced self-care is my “I come, I write, I leave” mantra during in-class writings, which has alleviated virtually all anxious thoughts. Have in mind that we’re all different, and this might only work for some people.

What helped me the most, was probably the fact that I stopped caring! Not literally, but the moment I implemented the mindset that my grades only assess my performance, and not me, things changed for the better. Life happens, and we’re all human. Not even Usain Bolt can be in top shape all the time. We cannot stop what we’re doing and ruin ourselves mentally simply because of some Math quiz or English essay. It’s just not worth it, not worth the time, the tears and self-deprecation. It would be inhuman if life didn’t have its ups- and downs. Yes, it might reflect your results, but in 9/10 cases, you do receive more opportunities to tick off that particular criteria that you’ve struggled with. If you find yourself stuck and your grades are heavily affected – remember, that you do have an entire life to fix things and finish up. If you really can’t come to terms with your teacher, please don’t panic like I did – there are plenty of options. You’ve got Högskoleprovet, Komvux, study circles and many other plan B’s. I can guarantee you that the minute you let go of ridiculously high expectations and the pressure that you put upon yourself over your grades – you will improve. Not only academically, but socially and physically as well.

My approach when handling criticism and feedback has also taken a 180 degree-turn, as I used to take critique very, very personally and instead of trying to understand it and aim to improve – I would often approach assessed work with stubbornness and naïveté, and make unnecessary excuses for any shortcomings in my texts. After all, the teachers assess your work with the best intentions, and if your language is too flowery or your structure incoherent, that means that there’s room for development – which is wonderful! Today I’m actively focusing on accepting any form of feedback and critique with uttermost dignity, gratefulness and respect. Once again, the teachers only assess a particular piece of writing, and not you as a person. To add in some good news, there’s now an anonymous correcting tool in DigiExam that some teachers have started using – in case you’re worried about there being any personal bias.

Most of us are controlled by procrastination to the extent where it makes us end up in that same, familiar trench at 1 AM on a Sunday, realizing that we’ve wasted days, now having to learn everything about ion pumps and how an action potential propagates along an axon. Just doing it, as expressed by Shia LaBeouf and advertised by Nike – is the key. Yes, we do have a complicated relationship with our reward system, but imagine finishing that German homework and then having the entire weekend to do whatever. Instead of letting it lingering and eating up your mind, and later causing you to end up just as regretful and frustrated on a Monday morning, curbing your procrastination can build up some serious mind-power. I know what I’m talking about, as I’ve had countless of four-hours-before-an-exam studying sessions.

As aforementioned, life can indeed stupefy you when you least expect it, and when you find yourself in a dark alley, having the mindset of ensuring that you at least hand something in and just finishing whatever task, can be a great source of fuel.

On a final note, participating in an association I love, choosing a fun elective, and having had many exchanges of opinions and challenging my preconceptions, have undoubtedly been crucial factors to my mental development and increased well-being during my time at KG.

 


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