I can’t remember exactly what it is, but there’s some statistic that gets thrown around a lot during New Student Orientation (NSO) about what percentage of Stanford students say that they have, at some point or another, felt as though they didn’t belong at Stanford. It’s one that most people tend to shrug off the first few times they hear it, myself included. When we’re first presented with that statistic, as new Stanford students, most of us are too busy feeling like we’re on top of the world to take it seriously.
But then, one day, right in the midst of your busy Stanford life, it hits you in the gut, and you suddenly come across a horrible feeling: you feel overwhelmed.
I don’t think there’s anything worse than feeling overwhelmed. It has stages, just like grief, and experience has taught me that the first is always denial. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I deny it so fiercely that, for an hour or two, I actually manage to convince myself that I’m actually underwhelmed. I tell myself that I’m worried for no reason, that everything is fine, and that, worst-case scenario, I can just not sleep for a day or two to get everything done.
I don’t think this stage has ever lasted longer than a few hours, because following in its footsteps is the dawn of realization: that awful moment when you hit the wall that’s made up of all the books, papers and extracurricular activities waiting to be completed. The denial melts away and is replaced by a strange sense of shock — you’re surprised that you have so much to do, but you’re also surprised that you didn’t realize it earlier.
Then comes the anger, which is mainly directed inwards. I become angry at myself for signing up for too many classes, for not spending all my waking hours in the library, for making too many promises, for having gone out on Friday night, for watching that movie when I should have been reading and for spending time with my best friend when I should have been writing. I’m even mad at myself for writing this column when I should be studying for chemistry.
It’s easy to get consumed in these moments (particularly as the week nine midterms and finals begin to loom ominously in the forefront of your thoughts). I’m as guilty as everyone else is, but what’s important to remember is that these obstacles are not the end of the world, and that maneuvering through them is actually feasible. All you have to do is remember that college is about more than the numbers on our p-sets and tests. It’s about more than beating the average. It’s the one time in our lives when we’re surrounded by fascinating people with a variety of talents and interests, people who can be great resources when trying to deal with what seems like impending defeat.
Though I sometimes have difficulty admitting it, I’m saying it now: it’s okay to ask for help.
I know, it seems like such an obvious solution, but I feel like it’s one that is often overlooked. The simple fact of the matter is that everyone has different strengths, and that it’s totally acceptable to ask a peer to help you out with something that may not be your strong point. Sure, asking for help does mean admitting that something isn’t your forte, but it’s important to realize that asking for help isn’t the same as giving up. Giving up is considered a weakness, but asking for help simply means that you have developed a self-awareness that is going to help you grow.
So, next time you feel stressed out, remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment or two to relax and reassess the situation to find out where you can turn for help. Despite what you may think, no one expects you to be Superman or grow an extra pair of arms (although if you have either of these skills, I would really appreciate a tutorial in how to go about getting them myself), so just breathe, pat yourself on the back and remember that at least we have sunshine!
Ravali is serious about learning to grow an extra pair of arms. If you think you can help her, send her an email at ravreddy “at” stanford “dot” edu.