Flying? Or Falling with Style?

Racing heart
Pounding head
Spontaneous nausea
Desire to throw breakable things off of a very tall building

Those phrases could conjure up a whole gamut of characters: someone who has a bad virus, someone who has just been broken up with, or someone who should be shopping for a certain kind of white jacket.

Oddly enough, Stressed-Out Katie has a lot in common with this Motley crew. In the past few weeks I have made a trip to the doctor, eaten a lot of ice cream, and wondered where I was some moments.

When my boss walked into our meeting yesterday, he looked at me and said, “How are you? You always look harried.”

  1. feeling strained as a result of having demands persistently made on one; harassed.
    “harried reporters are frequently forced to invent what they cannot find out”

At the end of our meeting where we divvied up assignments, he stated, “You need to get that rosy glow back in your cheeks.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is grad school.

I thought that I had been the Chosen One or something when the first year of grad school came and went so (relatively) smoothly. Everyone had told me that grad school would be demanding, ridiculously hard, and soul-crushing. I was prepared for the worst and then pleasantly surprised when the demands were reasonable and my soul was still intact.  Apparently grad school shows mercy to no one. It will find you and it will destroy you.

I made it longer than most, but it turns out I couldn’t hide forever. I have had this pounding headache for four days. A couple of weeks ago I made my first trip to the campus health center because of a nasty sore throat, cough, and soreness. Typical symptoms but they have been haunting me for some time and I didn’t want to deal with them again. The doctor asked when I had gotten sick before? It wasn’t until I thought backward and listed off May, December… that I noticed it. “So around finals week?” she asked. Well, yes. Look at that.

My first thought was what kind of wuss gets taken out by a little stress and a sore throat? I am tougher than this!

Then my second thought was that if it is affecting my physical health, it must be bad.

I always thought I handled stress well. Sure, I experienced it as much as the next person but I knew I could get up and take a walk, listen to some music, or do some yoga to calm it down. This time around I was booking it on the treadmill for an hour every day and nothing was changing. My stress was building along with my time commitments so that soon I couldn’t even spare a few minutes for a little stroll. My usual slow jams weren’t cutting it either so I had to break out the Lord of the Rings soundtrack to keep my anxiety at bay.

Adding insult to injury, I allowed myself to believe I was a weakling when individuals would tell me about their career and then say things like, “Oh, you are just a student? You don’t have a real job? That must be nice.” Oh yeah, I am just a student. There is no way I could be as busy as someone with a 40-hour week.


I actually had to take a moment and figure out exactly what was driving me over the edge? Why was I more stressed than my young professional counterparts?

  • 9 credit hours a week allotted for class with approximately 30 homework hours in addition (almost a full-time job there)
  • 10-20 hours a week for research
  • the equivalent of a part-time job applying for internships, attending networking events, writing cover letters, etc.
  • 5-10 hours a week dedicated to Fellows responsibilities (hosting a speaker series, planning a Gettysburg trip, redesigning a website and social media pages, meeting after meeting…)
  • Church responsibilities. As visiting teaching coordinator in one of the most transient wards ever, organizing visiting teaching companionships and collecting all the numbers is a monthly ordeal. Planning a lesson and drafting a talk is also time-consuming for me.
  • Random commitments here and there (filming a law society awards dinner, babysitting for a classmate, apartment chores, birthday parties, you get the idea)

I had to remember that while I may not have a boss to answer too, I had professors to impress for future letters of recommendation. In my field GPA is important so I can’t just let an assignment slide either. I may not have to wake up early to do the 9 to 5, but I have to stay up late. (The other day it took me two hours to get home from class. TWO HOURS! That’s like a mini road trip.) I may not have clients or employees but I do have committees and group members that are counting on me.

Yes, that says 12:21 AM. Class ended at 10PM.

After my initial visit with the doctor, I decided that I needed to do something to relieve some of the stress I was having. I may not have had any free time to spare but I could re-allocate the little time I did have. I made a deal with myself that I couldn’t do any homework while on public transportation. That time is only for leisure reading. That has been a great reprieve and now I actually look forward to my metro trips. Unfortunately, I got a little too comfortable and the stress crept up again.

I have never experienced a panic attack but the other day was the closest I have come to wondering if it was about to happen. I was my happy, cheerful self with the usual panic tucked away but I started to feel like I was going to be sick. I rode in my Uber all the way to institute trying to form a plan just in case it actually happened. Would I be able to dive out of the car? Maybe I could sacrifice my backpack….

I got through institute fine but then it happened on the way home. I finally got back to my apartment and debated running for the bathroom. I gambled and held my ground. But then I got a few texts of people asking me to take care of a few things on this project and that. That’s when I started getting shaky and antsy. I wanted to scream. Loud. I have never wanted to scream that badly before!

My roommate, the angel that she is, talked me down and talked me through it. She helped me walk through my options and come up with a plan of action. Yesterday I cancelled my weekend trip to Palmyra with some friends because I knew it would be the best thing for me. Bummer. I have never been to the Sacred Grove or Niagara Falls before. That’s okay. I have a whole lifetime to try again.

“So Katie, if you are so stressed and have no time at all, how are you writing this post?” Well, I finished my paper due by noon and had a spare hour before my scheduled shower time.

Honestly, this post was boring for me to write. I don’t like sharing “yucky” things. I like sharing things that make people laugh, or smile at the least. I only did it because I was talking with a friend lately about this blog. You who read it are so nice to me! You are so supportive and have surprised me with your overly generous compliments! My life is really fun and I love sharing it. I am so grateful for the adventure I am on and love that it is leading me to even more adventures.

Life is great, but it is also hard. I believe that we all have our fair share of trials and no good things comes without its rough spots. But I also believe that there is a difference between hard times and sad times. We don’t have a choice in the level of difficulty of our trials but we do get to choose how down about it we are going to get.

My roommate quoted Buzz Lightyear and I realized how perfectly it illustrates life experiences–if we want it to.

Sometimes we are flying, sometimes we are falling with style. Does it really matter which?



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