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Finals time: Anxiety at an all-time high

As I was reading through The New Yorker this morning, I came across a cartoon with the caption: “No, I don’t need an alarm clock — anxiety is my alarm clock.”

I found this hilarious and disturbingly accurate. While I can’t completely empathize with the statement thanks to my spectacular ability to sleep though anything and everything, I’ll readily admit that I have more than my fair share of anxiety.

Why so anxious? Perhaps it runs in my blood. It’s like how some families have a high risk of heart disease or diabetes; in my family, we worry. It could also be an immigrant thing — a recent study by researchers at UC Davis and National Institute of Psychiatry, Mexico, argues that migrants are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression compared to their non-migrating counterparts.

I’m not a psychiatrist but if I had to give my two cents, I’d say that yes, moving to a foreign country and trying to assimilate to a completely unfamiliar environment could be a little stressful at times. Just a little.

Lately, it’s been existential meltdown this or quarter-life crisis that. What if my brother doesn’t look both ways before crossing a street and gets run over by a semi-truck? What if my friends in the cities get mugged in a dark alley? What if a cow sets the town on fire? (Come on, if it happened to Chicago, it could totally happen to Detroit Lakes.)

A while back, I was talking to a friend who also tutors at a local elementary school and at one point, she remarked, “You see these little kids freaking out about fractions!” Fractions! How adorable and silly is that? And…how silly am I, freaking out about general chemistry and Thucydides?

I swear it’s something in the water here. Or rather, something in the air — the gloom and doom of finals are near. You see, college finals are like high school finals except 3,000 percent worse because they’re worth 98 percent of your grade.

(…Fine, I fudged a few numbers for dramatic effect — they’re only worth like 95 percent.)

This last stretch of college has been a real pressure cooker. My inner monologue for the past week has been: “I have three essays to write and all the finals to study for and I still need to figure out how to get to LAX and WHY IS EVERYTHING SO STRESSFUL?!“ Cue curling into a fetal position and theatrically sobbing.

But it could be a lot worse. College during finals is probably the best place in the world to be a high-strung maniac. Since everyone on campus is struggling, the administration showers us with free pizza and puppies. I am fortunate to have such a strong support system behind me, a luxury many people lack.

Throughout the years, people have told me to stop worrying and I’ve told others the same. Stop worrying! It’s going to be fine! While I’m sure we had the best intentions, saying those things is deconstructive.

Anxiety is a very human reflex. People can’t simply turn off a switch and stop worrying because in the end, they only get concerned about the things they care about. And I think people should care about things.

So how do we deal with common anxiety? Beats me. But I think support and perspective helps.

I used to think that almost everyone else had their lives figured out, but after a few heart-to-hearts, I’ve realized that they too struggled with coursework and felt homesick. Knowing that I wasn’t alone went a long way.

Reminding myself that my problems were not actually that serious also made things bearable. In essence, I’m that elementary schooler freaking out about fractions. I’m not trying to feed a starving family of four; I’m trying a pass a class. And if things don’t work out, well. I’m only one of billions of people in one of billions of planets and the universe won’t stop just because I flunked a test. The world will go on. And so will I.

And for now, knowing that is enough.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.