Category Archives: health

27

I have a weird relationship with aging. Every year I get a little older and feel a little younger.

Ten years ago I turned 17 and thought that the good times had finally arrived. I was a senior in high school, I had a driver’s license, and I was going to the BMA convention for the first time ever. Hello, fun social life!

Of course, within two or three months I was living the life of a 90-year-old woman. Sickly, tottering, tired. Shuffling along using a cane for support. No social life. Too mentally out of it to drive.

The year I was 17 was the most awful year I have ever lived.

I remember turning 18 and feeling so cheated. Cheated out of being 17. Somehow (too many teen novels?) I’d gotten the idea that 17 was supposed to be the best year of my life.

Instead, 26 was the best, and healthiest, year of my life to date. I expect 27 will top that.

I had a great day. My sister Jenny, my friend Ashlie, my friend Esta, and Esta’s daughter Eden hiked up Spencer Butte.

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Ashlie had to go to work, but the rest of us went to the coast for the afternoon.

Little Eden just LOVED the ocean, even though, according to Esta, she’d been knocked over by a wave the last time she was at the beach.

“It’s my favorite place, too,” I whispered to her.

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Photo by Jenny Smucker

If I could whisper to the Emily of the past I would say, You will be healthy again. Life will be fun. If you thought 17 was cool, try being 27.

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The Pain and the Peacefulness

I woke up with the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my life. I felt like I was choking on a pine cone. Swallowing sent brutal pain through my throat, and yet I couldn’t seem to make my mouth stop swallowing. I lay in a cold sweat, my muscles aching. Too sick to get up, too sick to fall asleep, and desperately in need of some NyQuil.

There was no NyQuil in my bathroom due to the fact that I “moved out” a couple weeks ago. My friend Ashlie and I are living just up the road from my parents’ place, which is why I put “moved out” in quotation marks, since I still spend quite a bit of time with my family. Like, for instance, when I need NyQuil.

Finally gathering enough energy to get out of bed, I tossed a few things into my backpack and climbed into my car for the 1/2 mile drive to the land of NyQuil and a comforting mother.

I parked in the driveway, opened my car door, and then just sat there.

NPR was announcing the morning news. “We will be updating you regularly on the Egyptian Air flight that disappeared over the Mediterranean this morning.”

It was 5:00 am, and the sky was that eerie darkish blue of not-quite-morning.

Rain fell, suddenly, pattering on the roof of my car, the new-rain smell blowing in through my open door.

And somehow, in the middle of the weird eeriness, the intense pain in my throat, and the sadness of another plane disappearing, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I didn’t feel the crushing stress of the last couple weeks of term. I guess this is what they call a peace that passeth all understanding.

I’m on antibiotics now, and I woke up this morning with my throat barely hurting at all, thank God.

It’s very much coming down to crunch time, school wise, and I stress because I don’t know how to not stress. But for the past few days I’ve been clinging to the memory of that peace because I love to know that it exists.

 

Stress

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Photo Credit: Esther Mae Wilcoxson

I understand that stress is a normal/needed biological reaction, but doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous to you that our body has the same reaction to schoolwork as it does to being chased by a bear?

I go to great lengths to decrease the level of stress in my life. I take a lighter course load even if it means I stay in college well nigh forever. I miss the hippest parties so I can recharge after a busy week. Unchecked stress causes both physical and mental illness for me, and the trade-off isn’t worth it.

Still. Being in college means that stress is inevitable. It swims in softly, circles around me, threatening, until dead week due-dates approach and it clamps down on my abdomen with its cold spiky teeth.

(In my head I imagine stress as looking somewhat like an angler fish.)

“It’s just a test,” I tell myself. “I could get a B. Or even a C. It wouldn’t really matter. I’d still graduate.”

But the angler fish seems immune to logic, and it never swims away until the tests are over and the slap-dash assignments are handed in.

So here’s a question: Is stress at school inevitable? Or are we doing it wrong?

I have several rants that are constantly simmering in my head, ready to boil over if anyone says a trigger word. This is one of them:

WHY is success in college measured by how much effort you put in instead of how much you actually learn?

College students are supposed to put in 2 hours of homework for every 1 hour of class time. Why is this? Who decided that this was a good idea?

In college, I’ve had a few classes that didn’t just teach me things, they fundamentally altered how I viewed the world and humanity. One of them was a history class at Linn Benton. I loved it so much I immediately signed up the next term for another history class from the same teacher. Another was a population geography class I took this term.

But here’s the thing: These classes were not stressful. They had almost no homework. In fact, the other day I realized that even though I took them at different colleges, the classes were structured almost identically:

  1. A short, relatively easy quiz every two weeks
  2. A discussion every week on something we’d talked about in class, with the scoring based more on scope of thought than on following a specific formula
  3. A bit of in-class work
  4. No final exam

So here’s a parting question: If learning and stress are not directly proportional, why do schools treat them like they are? Why is there an assumption that more homework = more learning?