I sat at my desk in May, relieved to have finished my last AP test of the year. As I looked around the room, I saw my peers in various states of exhaustion; many chatted with their neighbors about how they felt they did, and all of us were eager to leave the room and, with it, accept the payoff of our hard work all year. However, while our work was complete and we had done our best, the buzzing tension of our test results hung in the air like the LA smog outside our classroom. With senior year looming darkly on the horizon, we knew that our relief from stress was temporary; the riptide of responsibility tugged at our feet, ready to tumble us into the crashing waves of adulthood.
Certainly, uncertainty is a significant source of stress in teens today.
Take me, for example. As in incoming senior in high school, many aspects of my life are out of my hands. Now that I'm almost eighteen, I'm expected to have a certain level of responsibility for myself; I have to rethink not only my eating habits as my metabolism slows down, but also start thinking about financial and physical independence from my family as I step into the world. With college applications on the rise, I've also come to realize that no matter how great my application may look, I might not get accepted to the colleges I want to attend. After all of my hard work these past twelve years of education, the thought of it not being recognized - the thought of being tossed aside as worthless to the school - terrifies me. I feel like the rug has been ripped from under me, and my anxiety is at its peak.
Some questions have risen as a result of this stress. What does this mean for my personality? Does my anxiety over feeling out of control mean I'm a control freak, or that something is wrong with me? And, most of all, how can I fix it?
When I hear the term 'controlling', the first thing that comes to mind is an irritable dictator taking advantage of everyone and everything around them for their own personal gain. They make plans to be followed by their considered 'subordinates', and when those plans aren't carried out exactly as the dictator wanted them to, their sanity is thrown out of balance and the world crumbles along with them.
Let's take a fresh perspective. As human beings, we are gifted with the capacity for deep thought. As animals, we struggle for solidity - and, with it, safety - in our everyday lives in order to find peace. If we left our lives completely to fate, we wouldn't have the organized civilizations we have today; in contrast, if we tried to control every detail of our lives down to the last hair, we would perish at the mention of creativity and nature's inevitable surprises. So, how do we find a balance?
Teenage stress over competition for college admission is staggering and real. Even the most open-minded and flexible person can feel anxiety over the pressures to find where they belong. However, while the jury is out on those decisions we can't control, we teens can put our best selves forward to keep our sanity in the rest of our daily lives. If we're feeling cramped in our homes, we can take a walk. If we're worried about our eating habits, we can change them. Once we start to identify what we have control of, it will be easier to approach change with stability and certainty.
Now that we know that our entire lives aren't in a tailspin, we can accept the change as it comes and learn to cope with the aftermath with a brighter outlook. We can do all we can to make our lives comfortable and stable, knowing that once the results are in, we can face them with confidence in who we are.
Change is a sucker punch that can knock you flat on your back. Sometimes it's avoidable, yet most often it is not. But when you find yourself on the ground, look up; you'll see you have a better view of the infinite sky above you.