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The Expectations of Students

by Amanda McNeill 4 years ago in work

A fight for survival against ourselves.

Sink or swim, either way it is not going to be fun.

Fall break. Reading week. Spring Break. March break.

There are many names for it, but they all mean the same thing; a blissful week off from school work in the second semester, usually during February or March. Some universities even have co-curricular days in the first semester, which is basically two or three days making up a long weekend to give students ‘time off’.

However, I do not think that our professors understood that meaning; they used these ‘breaks’ as a way to give out larger assignments, working under the assumption that students had more time to complete them.

A French professor in my fourth year of university brought some clarity as to why this break was so necessary; anxiety, depression and suicide in students had become frighteningly common in the past and universities sought to try and lower that by giving a ‘stress free’ week.

As I stated before, I think the majority of professors missed that memo. I remember every reading week at the beginning of March consisted of me scrambling desperately to finish assignments, essays and whatever other projects I had as an art student. However, I was one of the lucky ones and managing my workload was relatively easy—even with the mad scramble that made up my reading week.

I finished four years of university with lower than average stress levels, and a successfully high GPA to top it off. It was only later that my anxiety and depression kicked in.

My plan was to become a teacher; what else does one do with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and the desire for a solid career? I spent so long trying to convince myself that I wanted to become a teacher that I actually did it—until I was sitting in orientation for a Bachelor of Education and realized that I had royally screwed up.

I was sick to my stomach in fear and regret, having already moved into residence and paid for my first semester’s tuition, as I sat among hundreds of other BEd students. I went back to my little studio apartment on campus, and proceeded to completely fall apart in a full-blown panic attack. I was left sitting on my floor, hyperventilating through sobs, as I realized that I had no clue what I wanted to do for a career.

Four years of university with over forty-thousand dollars in student debt waiting to be paid, and I was only then realizing the road block that I had hit in my life. I made it through four years of school without having any anxiety related issues, and one hour of a program orientation completely turned my world upside down.

I became depressed. My family had been so sure I wanted to teach, most of them were desperately trying to keep me in the program with only my sister attempting to aid me in sorting out my severely jumbled thoughts. I no longer slept, I went three days without eating because even the smell of food made me nauseous, and every waking moment was spent terrified that I was no longer smart enough to make my own decisions.

I dropped out of the program and moved out of residence quickly enough, but I was firmly rooted in my fears and depressed thoughts. I lost over ten pounds of weight, slept so little that sitting up was a challenge, and was slowly slipping toward the darker side of despair that left me wondering if getting into a car accident was really that bad of a thing.

Thankfully, my sister was internet-savvy enough that she began suggesting programs and certificates that can be obtained online for different career paths. It was not a perfect solution or cure, but it helped me to visualize a light at the end of an abruptly dark tunnel.

I have read about and heard other students speak of the strong anxiety and depression that comes with school, but I never thought that it would show up afterward.

No one expects themselves to fall into a depression; it is terrifying and there is no easy way to pull yourself back from it. The will to do anything disappears; there’s no urge to eat, even trying to fall asleep becomes a semblance of a chore, there is no desire to do anything.

There is nothing more frightening than stripping down for a shower and seeing your ribs and hip bones standing out again your skin, knowing that they had not done that a few days before. I looked like a skeleton and I never thought that this would ever happen to me. What was worse is that I did not have any desire to change it—I did not bother eating to fix it.

Not until I found myself looking into jobs that I could imagine myself doing—even if they weren’t things that I could do immediately. Like becoming a writer. Or an artist.

Originally, I was caught thinking about forty-thousand dollars that I needed to begin paying off, and that I had no job and no qualifications for a decent job; the only thing that helped me through this was my sister—who has more money than she knows what to do with—assuring me that I was not alone and that I just needed to think everything through carefully.

School, technically, did not make me depressed.

When I was in high school, I was expected to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; this is what made me depressed. Because at eighteen years old, I had no clue what I wanted to spend the next several decades doing to keep a roof over my head. No one else in my family had the same interests as me, so I could not use them as an example, and internet career tests are only so accurate. So I spent four years pursuing what I loved to do—art. However, when it came down to deciding, again, what I was going to do after post-secondary ended and I was handed my diploma, I drew a blank. Therefore, like any student who did not think things through or do the proper research, I panicked and made a quick decision that sent me spiraling very far down a very dark hole.

School did not cause my short bout of depression. The expectation of knowing what to do when I was a teenager, and later regretting it as an adult, is the sole cause for instant, overwhelming despair.

The expectations on those so young is not healthy and is dangerous for my generation as it will be for generations to follow.

Expectations placed on us is what is making students spiral down, even if we have the capacity to withstand university or college.

work

Amanda McNeill

Amanda McNeill began her love of writing in the fanfiction community, honing her skill with the hopes of following her passions for writing in the future.

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