Today, I ask the students to tell me their names and to answer this question: What were you known for in high school?”
A student offered a response I’d never heard. It ranks as my most intriguing response next to the student who said in 2010, “I was known for mediocrity.”
A new student says, “I was known for not experiencing stress. I was the only student in the class who ranked the lowest the teacher ever saw in stress levels. I’m just not a stressed out person. I just don’t experience stress. I stay peaceful and relaxed.”
Students sit in silence, flabbergasted. These are Penn State students who often come to my office crying from stress and in care of doctors because of stress. So I say, “Tell me more. What’s the secret? What enables this?” So far, I would describe this student as the most engaged, most prepared, and most alert. It’s not as if he’d checked out or resigned himself to laziness.
He says, simply: “It’s because it will all be OK. Whatever happens, I will work through it. So I stay calm and peaceful. I don’t get stressed about the work. I just do it and know that it will all be OK.”
I thought about that attitude of taking what comes and working through it. Not fearing it, not anticipating the stress of it, but just working through it. I think about all my resources that enable me to work through whatever comes. And I consider how, perhaps, being stressed-out is really about fear of outcomes more than anything else.
I’m going to ask him more as the semester continues.