After I arrived home from school, I had time to reflect on my year. I thought about how challenging it was, and how I could prevent unnecessary stress in the year to come. I was at a loss for inspiration and hopelessly convinced that college –– and school in general –– would always be unpleasant in the moment but gratifying afterwards. Disillusioned by the continuum of anxiety I would have to face for as long as I was in academia, I stumbled upon an article about a series of correspondences of Sylvia Plath.
It seems that Plath struggled with the same thing as I did my freshman year: making minute issues into pillars of stress. Take, for instance, my two-credit class that met once a week: it was hardly a time commitment but, I had to submit weekly 1-2 page responses every Friday by 5 p.m., the same time I was at Calc office hours. Consequently, what should have been an interesting, low-key class, became a loathsome source of stress and anticipation that hovered over me from the time I entered the class on Monday evening until 4:59 p.m. on Friday, when I would momentously click “submit” on my weekly response, simultaneously trying to figure out some integral from the upcoming math homework.
While thinking about how to prevent unnecessary anxiety, I stumbled upon an article about a series of Sylvia Plath’s journal entries from before she returned to college after her medical leave. She discussed her strategies to ease back into an academic routine, particularly her plan to take three courses instead of five. Her doctors agreed that lightening her course load would be the best method to maintain and nourish her recovery from her previous mental breakdown.
Plath’s plan validated mine: to take less classes but devote my whole self to them. Although many might argue that asking “What would Sylvia Plath do?” is a senseless (and potentially detrimental) idea, it was crucial in motivating me to bring up my predicament with my academic advisor. Instead of feeling like a “slacker” for taking only three classes, I felt justified upon learning that an alum whom I admire did the same. And to that, I am eternally grateful, especially because my advisor agreed.
-- Julia Smith