By Saima Harron, September 19 2023—
The night before an early morning, I find myself frustrated and on the brink of tears. Deciding which outfit to wear for the 16-hour day ahead of me seems all too much. Too many options, too much to decide, too loose, too tight. All too stressful, something that my mind has no capacity for. I settled for a pair of black pants and a black top, simple and easy — this simple configuration won’t stress me out past the presented limit. I find myself settling and belittling the mundane tasks, not to take up too much stress so I can allocate the rest of my existing stress to more pressing matters.
The World Health Organization defines stress as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation”. Stress is a human response to challenges and threats, it prompts an individual to find and solve demanding issues. As humans, as students, as the proletariat class and as victims of the struggles imposed by external factors — stress for us is unavoidable. Stress is manageable and maintainable with a work-life balance, fun and work continues to be the duality of a secure individual in a society.
Not interested in managing or depleting, in the wake of a future that relies on no one else but yours truly, the tension between myself and a version of me that doesn’t exist yet is hostile. Harrassed by the phantom of my future, do better, do more — a beseechment of my lack-there-of achievements that render security. The lack of comfort in my present state is involuntary — ungrateful of what is presented in my existence and hateful for the present.
Never enough and never good enough. The bias for action and the bias against inaction, my lack of presence in productivity is a threat. A threat curated, administered and facilitated all by my own willing accord — a theatrical showing of the non-existent.
Stockholm syndrome is a response from those who are held captive to identify close to their captors. Following and believing in all the demands that the captor enforces. So, although stress is the body’s response to challenges and threats — the challenges and threats that trigger a need to act serve as protection against a freely running mind. Running to and running for a distraction, physically harmful and mentally harmful, a constant strive for more and doing more will always render favourable for a brooding subconscious. Never enough and never good enough — filtered by a string of unnoticed and unwanted back-to-back A+ exams, professional achievements and appraisals.
Not only a bull’s market for my own distraction but the best mask that an ugly person can ask for. A self-defence mechanism for my ugly, hidden and unseen in the presence of achievement. Flaws, insecurities, fears, weaknesses, my face, my body, my persona, my thoughts, the dumb things I say — I assume all of my ugly is unnoticed with the mask of achievement. A distraction for those who perceive me — I trust that my many gold stars hide all of the ugly.
Wandering about in this prestigious land of academia, the constant push from this culture to do more is comforting and safe. The Stockholm syndrome I have with stress, combined with my aloofness and ignorance of a peaceful state of existence is validated each and every day I choose to deplete myself an hour of freedom. The common silent struggle within the land of academia is seemingly overlooked and under-maintained. The overachievers, the go-getters and the try-hards are deemed to be perfect in their achievements and abilities. The possibility of achievements utilized as a distraction from a speculative fictional dystopian reality is more likely than deemed otherwise.
The establishment of a solution has never been to do less, to be the assumption of peace or to shut it down. It is simply to wait, wait for the day to decide that success has been achieved. The day when it is safe to stop working, stop typing, stop writing, stop running, stop solving, stop studying, stop counting, stop planning. I won’t add to my list, I won’t task myself to discover a configuration for how to achieve a state of peace, instead, I will wait.
Waiting for the day when it can all stop, leaving it out of my hands — perhaps, is the first step to achieving peace.
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.