I am UIC: Stress and relief

students studying in the library

(Photo: Callie Lipkin)

The feeling of exhilaration that hits you when you are done with four midterms is quite unexpected.

As students, it sometimes feels like our lives revolve around college: go to class, go to work, study, sleep, repeat. So what is this feeling, this unexpected blip in the radar of our relatively mundane lives (at least during midterms)?

I believe it is a symptom of release of the mental stress that we sometimes don’t know we are under. I’ve heard so many of my friends (and even myself) say that they’re going to bed as soon as the exam is over. However, I’ve noticed that rarely happens. Unless the exam goes terribly, you suddenly realize all the things that you want to do or could do now that the obligation you feel has been lifted. It’s not just intense relief, it’s a serotonin-driven sense of well-being. This feeling of freedom, of sublime happiness, will be one of the most vivid feelings that we remember in the haze of nostalgia that I’m sure will overpower us when we are old and gray.

When we enter the deadline-driven world of work, I’m sure that this feeling will not leave us. I’m also sure, however, that we won’t experience it the same way. Although the stakes might be higher in the real world, they seem impossibly high when you’re a student.

There is also a general companionship, accompanied by a sense of isolation, that you feel after walking home from an exam after discussing it with your friends. This universal experience of being a student is one that inspires reflection when you’re living the life of countless stories, when you’re living a life full of experiences shared by so many others.

The satisfaction of doing well when you’ve worked hard never fades — and honestly, it feels better than doing well when it’s not deserved.

Congrats on finishing midterms week, and I hope you got some ice cream when you completed your last midterm.

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