Sunday, 12 May 2013

What we talk about when we talk about stress.

Recently I've been sleeping a lot more, and dreaming a lot less.

This isn't how you're supposed to respond to stress. You're supposed to lie awake long into the small hours of the night and twitch with anxiety. Stress is supposed to give you nightmares or patterns of interrupted sleep. You're supposed to eat less and less and slowly wither away, consumed by a vague but lingering sense of panic, in the back of your mind or the pit of your stomach or some other fringe of your body.

I haven't been getting that.

My A-level exams are looming. For my international readers (hi, I kind of can't believe you exist), A-levels are the standardised tests you do in England at the end of your last year of school. Their results arbitrarily determine your future, if you get into the university you want to or are sent to your insurance choice or have to go through the confusing process known as clearing - which seems like a January sales-type deal, where you apply to empty places that other universities have due to their applicants messing up - or if you need to retake your exams. Of course, if your future doesn't involve university, then they are a lot less relevant.

But the fact of the matter is that I am relying on my grades to get to university. My offer from the University of York is fairly low and pretty easily achievable for me; I can drop a grade from my predicted mark in each subject and still exceed it. Perhaps this is why I'm not stressing the way my friends are.

Of course, with everything I do, I feel like there is a niggling fear that I will fuck up, and I will fail. Every time I write an essay, I turn it in thinking about how I could have improved it, and how it's my own laziness which is preventing me from doing so. When you don't have to work hard, sometimes you stop caring. I'm worried that this will happen to me, that I will become complacent from treading water and suddenly sink. I am cool and nonchalant, but inside my head I am afraid of doing it wrong.

This is what stress is to me. I don't down bottles of wine or party into oblivion to forget, but I don't obsessively revise either. Stress over my impending trip to Japan is probably compounding issues - it's less than two months till we leave and we haven't finished booking accommodation! That is stressing me out! What if we get to Kyoto and have to illegally camp in a park?! By comparison, I'm finding it a little difficult to care about the GOP position on immigration or William James' essays on religious experience or the dramatic presentation of power in King Lear.

Sure, my future might hinge on how well I can bullshit about Webster's poetry, but what if I don't book a hostel in Hiroshima in time and have to pay an extra five pounds a night?!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have no sense of proportion. I am a little bit stressed over a lot of things, so I focus on the most innocuous because - well. That's just it. I don't know why. Maybe because it's the least scary.

It'll all be over soon, and until them I guess I will continue to sleep less and eat about the same amount, and hope it all works itself out in the end.

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