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Post Grad= Post Stress? Not A Chance.

July 6, 2012

I chew my cheek. It’s a nervous habit, much like biting your nails, that I have yet to kick (except for a brief stint during a summer that I was interning for a zoo and felt like my hands were too dirty to ever touch my face). I enjoy joking about it with myself as self-cannibalistic tendencies. It’s not that funny of  a joke and maybe a bit inappropriate, but I find it humorous that the nervous habit involves biting the skin away from the insides of my cheek to the point of bleeding sometimes. Also, I don’t talk about this habit. Ever. Even though, if you know me, you’ve probably seen me do it often.

I’m almost certain that when I was in school, if I would have paid attention, I would have found that my habit reached an all time painful high around finals time and midterms. But, being as I was stressed, I wasn’t paying that much attention to what I was doing to alleviate that stress in the form of chewing on my cheek.

As I sat here tonight in my sister’s house with her and her husband asleep on the floor above me, I was struck by the fact that I was gnawing away at myself. I mean, for all intents and purposes I should be completely relaxed. Granted, I have yet to write my second article for my internship that needs to be done asap, but I had gotten cut from work earlier than usual today, had enjoyed talking with my sister a bit before she went into dreamland, and was now enjoying the feeling of being a guest in someone else’s home while still being completely comfortable.

I was taking a break from worrying about writing the article for my internship by reading the third book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series (I know, I KNOW. A post for another time). Why on earth was I biting away at my cheeks until I sensed the flat, metallic taste of my own blood on my taste buds? I have so very little to be stressed about!

Earlier tonight, I was reading this wonderfully written piece on anxiety levels in the U.S. and realizing that every single thing resonated with me so deeply. Read it, you will not regret it. The article traces the anxiety levels in the U.S. and how it coexists, interacts with, and is impacted by the meritocracy system that is pervasive in the country. You know, the “you get what you get based on how hard you work” sentiment.

This particular portion stuck with me:

Technology has multiplied the possibilities, for consumers and socializers. “Online, you can look at literally every option, from every retailer in the world [whereas] a generation ago, you’d go to the one or two department stores in town,” says Schwartz. “Instant portable communication encourages people to keep their options open until the last minute, so that they don’t miss out on something better. A generation ago, people actually made plans.”

Reading this came on the tail end of my reading of a favorite blogger of mine’s piece dedicated to a list of tips for fresh grads on job seeking. And I saw my problem instantly. I attempted a rough calculation of how many times today I had thought about my job/lack there of/desires for/goals achieves towards/resume points made/potential connections built/connections followed up on successfully/likelihood that anything would ever come from it all. 37 times. In total today (at least as far as I could remember) I worried, angsted, and fretted over my future career 37 times. It’s no wonder I feel like my teeth have moved from biting for so long at my cheeks.

So tonight I’m going to put in my retainer again (even though I’ve long outgrown it) to make me feel like my teeth aren’t really moving. I’m going to renew my goal to not stress so much, and fail in the morning and stress again because I feel like it’s my default mode of existence. Maybe eventually write what I should have written as I wrote this post instead, and not feel too guilty that this post has very little to do with feminism and far too much to do with just how frustratingly frustrating it is to be a post-graduate in a post-hiring world.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2012 12:16 pm

    Thanks much for the link!

    Oh, this post makes me want to give you a fierce hug! NOTHING is worth that much stress. And you’re already so much wiser for having the perspective on it that you do.

    You want stress, sistah? Come live where I do…in a super-affluent area where people’s kids, as starting-out lawyers, already out-earn my husband and I at the peak of our (hah) journalism careers (combined) — and he works at the NYT, for heaven’s sake! I see skinny blond women who have never had to work a day in their lives driving their $80K cars and think, hmmm….where did I go so wrong?

    I like what I do. I like where I live. I have a decent man for a husband. I have dear friends.

    The only way to reduce your anxiety is to constantly remind yourself of what you do have, and keep walking towards things that make you happy. They may not be work-related. OOOOH. Now that’s an un-American thing to say. Only in the U.S. do people beat themselves bloody if they do not succeed professionally/financially…no matter what external institutional or economic obstacles lie before them. That way lies madness.

    • July 6, 2012 2:07 pm

      Thank you for the internet hug!!!

      It is one of the most interesting things in the world that the American drive towards independent career success is so culturally different from other countries who emphasize a more healthy balance. I’m working at going against all of my capitalistic drive towards success these days and trying to chill out more but it’s no easy project!

      Your post made my night/day/week, and they often do, so thank you! And if you pledge not to compare yourself to the skinny blonds, I’ll work on not comparing myself to all my peers proudly proclaiming their employed statuses on Facebook 🙂

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