Finals, Stress, and Support

The end of the year is always hard. The couple of weeks leading up to finals week is full of projects, presentations and papers, and there is really nothing we can do about it besides work long hours and drink lots of coffee.

Personally, many of my hours in these past couple of weeks have been spent in the library or in my school’s newsroom, pushing through paper after paper just to keep myself sane.

School has been hard, and it seems like the general trend amongst students is the “grin and bear it” technique. So, that’s what I tried to do. I kept my head down and tried not to complain too much about the mountains of work that kept me awake at night or the number of papers I had to do.

After all, everyone is busy. I am no different, so why should I complain?

That was until this past Sunday. I was in a presentation for one of the groups I am involved in on campus, and the presentation lasted four hours. I knew that this presentation was coming and I knew how long it was, so I planned my work around it.

During the meeting, all I was thinking about was what I had to do that night. I tried to be present, and at times I was, but the projects and papers and presentations kept running through my head.

I tore out of the meeting and ran to my car. I sped down the road, eager to get back to my room and get to work.

I got to where I needed to go, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to get out and get to work. I broke down.

I started to cry heaving, heavy sobs that racked my body from top to bottom. The papers and presentations and projects ran together in a cacophony of words and deadlines in my head, over and over until it was just too much.

Turns out grinning and bearing it isn’t exactly my forte.

 I felt embarrassed at my sobbing outburst and the stress became too much. I simply could not take it anymore.

So I called my parents.

As college students, we are encouraged to be as independent as possible. And we do a good job of it. We make choices everyday, like getting up and going to class or going out on weekends, that our parents may or may not disagree with.

We are supposed to relish our independence. It is what separates us from children. We are big, bad adults on our way to conquer the world. Who needs mom and dad?

Well, at that point in time, I did.

The second my mother answered the phone she new something was wrong. So, as I was sitting in my car, I told her everything that I had been holding in over the past three weeks. I told her about the stress and anxiety and the projects and the presentations. I told her that I wanted to come home and sleep in my own bed and hug my dog.

I broke down.

Here’s the thing about breaking down. It allows you to build something back up again that might be even better than the original. Something stronger and more beautiful will soon stand in the place of something that was broken.

Sometimes you just need to have emotions; you just need to cry. And that is totally okay. It is unhealthy to grin and bear it for too long. It makes you sick and sad and stressed.

I broke down last week, but that does not make me weak. It does not mean that I cannot handle independence. It does not mean that I should move back home. It just means that I am human and sometimes I can’t handle it all.

I hope that one day my daughter or son has the courage to call me when they are feeling stressed or sad. I hope that they are strong enough to admit that they cannot be strong anymore.

If you are feeling stressed, and I know that most of you are, take a breath. If you feel the need to cry, do. If you feel the need to call your parents, do.

You can do this.

The Woman I Want to Be

I am not the woman that you can see in old movies from the 50s and 60s. I am also not the woman that the feminist in me says I should strive to be. Let me explain.

I will never be a housewife. When I picture my life in ten or fifteen years, I cannot see a woman who stays home, cooks, cleans, and takes care of the children. I don’t see a woman who greets her husband when he gets home from work with a kiss on the cheek and a casserole on the table.

It’s totally okay if that is the future you want. I just don’t see myself being that kind of woman.

For one, I only enjoy cooking on rare occasions, and I would be an absolutely awful housekeeper, simply because I am one of the messiest and most cluttered people you could ever meet. I want to have children someday, but I don’t think I would be fulfilled by making them my full-time job.

I also don’t see a future where I am a high-powered, influential woman. This is the type of person that my inner feminist pushes me to be. I should be a woman working in New York City who makes just as much money as her husband and sees the kids when she gets home from work. I should wear power suits and be an eloquent speaker, working my way up the corporate ladder and one day running the company.

Again, it is great if you see yourself this way in the future, but I can’t.

One problem with these two scenarios is that, according to a lot of people, women can only be these two things. These are the two spheres that woman are so often thrown into. You are either a housewife, content to stay at home and take care of the kids, or you are a powerhouse stepping on others with your stiletto heel.

Why isn’t there a middle ground?

A couple years back, my mother and I had a serious conversation. At this time, I wanted to be a journalist living in Washington D.C. As I was discussing this with my mother, she suddenly got very sullen, and asked me the most adult question that I had ever been asked.

“Carly, what about having a family?”

This question made me stop in my tracks. And at the time, I was perfectly comfortable stating that I wanted a career, and if that meant not having a family, then I was okay with it.

As I got older and the future became clearer, I realized that I wasn’t okay with that.

The only future I saw had a husband and kids in it. But I don’t want to be a stay at home mom and have my family define me.

So what do I do?

Society tells me to do one or the other, but neither are perfect options. If I am a stay at home mom, I am lazy and unemployed. If I have kids and a job too, then I am neglectful of my children and my husband. If I don’t have kids and instead devote myself to a career, then I am power hungry.

There is no way to win in this scenario.

The thing is, men don’t usually get this type of scrutiny when it comes to their relationship with their occupation and their families. If they work full time, then they are providers. If they chose to not have kids, then they are focusing on their careers. The only time they receive a little bit of flack is in the case of stay at home dads, but that small group of men is receiving more praise than hate as of late.

I don’t care what you do with your lives. In my opinion, as long as you are happy, that is all I can ask for.

It took me a bit to figure out what my priorities are in life. I started to picture what my life would look like in several different scenarios, and none of them felt perfect.

I cannot picture my future without kids. I can, however, picture my life without being a journalist. So this is how I have decided to live my life.

We need to figure out how to stop labeling women in general, but particularly when it comes to what they want to do with their lives. It is 2016, for goodness sake, yet we are still defining a woman in regards to her familial relationships.

I’ll never be fulfilled being a housewife and I cannot see my future without children, and that is okay. I will figure something out that will make me happy. But if society cannot be content with my version of happiness and only sees me in a way that is bad, how can I win?

An Open Letter to my Father

Hi Daddy.

The first memory I have of the two of us together is when I was three years old. It was “Bring Your Father to Dance Class” day, and I was all dressed up in my little pink tutu. You were understandably uncomfortable, like most of the other dads were, but you still took the time out of your day to lift me up and spin me around.

And you have lifted me up every day since then.

You worked so hard to give Danny and I a good life. I cannot imagine the strain it had to take on you, getting up at four in the morning to deliver newspapers just so that we could have food to eat.

I know that in the past we have had our disagreements. I know that I wasn’t the nicest to you when I was in middle school. I had all of these emotions and problems that, in true adolescent fashion, I thought that you just couldn’t understand. I mean, after all, I was 13 and knew everything in the world.

But you loved me through it. You loved me every time we fought and every time I put you down. You trusted me that I would work through my angst on my own. Looking back, I don’t know exactly what I did to earn this trust, but I appreciate it all the same.

After my whole “I am so much smarter than you and you know nothing” phase, we became so close. Running to the door when I heard you come home is something most girls outgrow, but I still happily greeted you every day until I left home for school.

You were there for all of my dances, being a goofball. You embarrassed me at every single store we have ever been to, but I have never resented you for it. You are quirky and weird and sometimes on a three second delay, but it’s all of what makes you, you.

dad
Me and the (not so old) man

I have cherished our Bachelor Monday’s, NCIS Tuesday’s, and Survivor Wednesday’s. I look forward to drives home from school when we jam to country music, even though neither of us can carry a tune. I love going to Cavs games with you; it doesn’t matter if they win or lose, because we are all together.

You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. You have constantly been my soldier, always believing in me even if I didn’t believe in myself.

They say that girls marry people like their fathers. Well, my future guy has some pretty huge shoes to fill.

Someday, you are going to walk me down the aisle, and we are going to dance to one of those songs that I can’t listen to without crying like a baby. You are going to help me move into my first house. You are going to be in the hospital when I have my first child, who you can then embarrass at every store you take him or her to, just like you did to me.

I am so looking forward to it.

I love you, Carly

“I am not a princess because I married a prince. I am a princess because my father is a king.” {Anonymous}