It was around 11 in the evening of Friday the 13th, and I had two finals, a paper, and a portfolio due in the next 24 hours. The finals I had studied for, but of course no amount of studying could fix the gnawing feeling in my gut that I would forget something. The paper was all but finished, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to edit it or give it the once-over it deserved. The portfolio still needed two more entries, binding, a cover sheet, a reflections page… the list went on and on. To say I was stressed was an understatement.
So I did what most people do when they’re stressed (and presumably want to stay within the bounds of the law) and walked over to the Quad. I don’t live there (pro tip: apply for housing more than a month before May), but most of my friends did, so I walked over and sat down in the Blobby. Instantly, the ball of stress growing my gut withered away, as friends from each of my classes walked over and sat down to work with me. I found myself writing my paper at twice my normal speed (I never actually got around to editing, but let’s be real. Who actually edits?). I went over a few concepts I had forgotten to study, and I finished about 90 percent of the remaining work on my portfolio. At the end of the night, I walked back to Jester almost completely stress-free.
It took me a while to realize this, but what I had just done, and what I had been doing every time I walked over to the Blobby for company, was crowdsource my problems. We had a list of options for entries in our portfolios, and someone in the Blobby knew which entries were the easiest. Whatever I had yet to learn for the finals was invariably the focus of someone’s conversation somewhere in there, so just by walking around, I got a better review for my finals than anything I would have gotten had I stayed in my dorm. Even my paper got written faster. I took whatever need I might have had for a psychiatrist or someone to fix my problems and spread it out over everyone in the Quad, and a thousand people solving a thousand little problems gets work done faster than the alternative.
I recently had a conversation with some family friends about this idea of stress, and they told me that they always learned to just do their best to solve their own problems, and keep the remainder of their stress bundled up, close to their heart. They marveled at how we - the younger generation - are able deal with so many more problems than they were ever capable of, and it occurred to me that they were right. We do deal with a lot of problems, a lot more than our parents were ever asked to deal with. This is especially true of CS - our parents didn’t need to know the difference between Python and Java because those languages didn’t exist at the time. Even the idea of CS being a hard science is hard for many people in the generation above us to understand. So they’re not wrong at all. We do deal with a lot of stress—a lot more than a lot of them had to.
Whether you’re sitting on the edge of your seats awaiting your grades, or trying to finish a paper you just started the night before it’s due, know that there’s always someone around you who’s facing the same problems you are. That’s not to say that your problems don’t matter. In fact, if anything, your problems are important precisely because there are so many people who share them. So go out, find someone who’s waiting for the same grades, who’s trying to write the same paper, who’s trying to overcome the same roadblocks that you are, and tell them how you’re feeling, because chances are, they’re going to find just as much comfort in you as you are in them.