Graduating from high school and college is a landmark to be celebrated! After passing your classes and receiving your diploma, you are ready to take on the world, or are you?
Regardless whether you are a current student or have graduated decades ago, it’s safe to say that school is more than just education. Growing up in school and college teaches us more than just facts, formulas, and how to take tests.
The side effects of school teaches us social skills, dating, teamwork, and it breaks us down and builds us back up. School provides you with life practice, gives you challenges that must overcome, and it teaches you to learn how to learn.
Here is the downside, we graduate from school academically, but it is rare to graduate emotionally or spiritually.
Why have we not graduated?
Here is a question for you; have you ever had a school nightmare?
School nightmares as an example could be a dream where you failed a math class because you did not even know you enrolled in it!
Your dream could be about how you were late for your class, you couldn’t find your locker, and you didn’t study for the quiz that day.
Lastly, this example is the cliche where you are at school but somehow you’re not wearing any pants and people are laughing at you.
Not only is it common to have ‘school nightmares’ as a student, but even decades later!
What does this say about us and our relationship with school? All good things aside, it means that there are traumatic events we have in school that we haven’t overcome.
Whether it has to do with ‘first love’ drama to studying for examinations, these events can cause an array of emotions such as fear, anxiety, and disappointment.
In other words, we graduate from school, but not from our school nightmares!
Why am I making a big deal about this? School is life practice and it gives us challenges to learn from. The problem is that we overcome our obstacles physically and externally, but we never overcome those challenges mentally or internally.
As an example, you have probably said this before, “All I have to do is finish this final exam, then my anxiety will go away and everything will be back to normal.”
Do you remember saying that when you were in school?
If you passed the exam and your anxiety went away, it was only temporary. As my father always says, “Life is always an exam after an exam!”
Even if it is summer vacation, after the fun and games, the trips and sleeping in, new problems will cause you emotional distress!
In other words, you solve external problems, but you do not learn how to be fulfilled internally.
Even when you graduate from high school or college and pursue your career, the ‘exam anxiety’ becomes ‘project anxiety,’ board meeting stress, financial insecurity, and compulsions for achievement.
It is common to believe that changing external circumstances will change how you feel. The reality that we overlook is that our feelings are a reaction to our circumstances. We produce the feelings within ourselves.
I asked a variety of college seniors from Kennesaw State University what fears are on their mind. Surprisingly, their fears are not about the struggles of graduating and dealing with the last classes, but rather what they are going to do outside of college!
Even if they graduate from college, have they really graduated in every aspect? It appears to be the opposite. They earn their diplomas, but they leave college with more questions than answers and bring their worries with them in their careers, marriage, and even retirement.
We carry those same internal conflicts with us in different forms for the rest of our lives, and school nightmares are an excellent example of burying these internal problems.
Ultimately, we never solved the core problem, we just temporarily found a Band-Aid until the next problem arose.
You might be asking how we can graduate from our school nightmares?
There is no simple answer, but acknowledgement is a first step.
To put it into real world application, I want to share a lesson I learned through college and how acknowledgement was critical for any real change to happen.
My Final’s Anxiety
I was an officer for two clubs called Model United Nations (MUN) and High School Model United Nations. One of the clubs I would represent a country delegation and travel to conferences. The second one I was running the conferences and committees as the undersecretary general.
In other words, I had a mountain of work to be done in addition to my classes, and there were so many events and conferences at one point I had missed almost five weeks of classes in a row. Anxiety was through the roof, and I vowed to myself to retire from MUN and focus on my school work and spiritual endeavors the following year.
The next year, finals came around again and I still had a wave of anxiety, regardless of having no participation in any clubs or offices.
What did I learn? Midterms and finals anxiety had nothing to do with external circumstances, it had to do with ME! After the clubs were gone, entertainment and video games took its place and still lead me in a state of urgency and procrastination when tests and projects began hitting their deadlines.
The lesson I learned was that I have to improve MYSELF and my habits, not the external circumstances.
From that day forward I committed to internal fulfillment, to enjoy the process of living instead of searching for happiness from solving problems.
It took acknowledgement that I was the contribution to my own school nightmares in order for me to begin to change my habits from the inside-out.
In order to truly graduate from school, we must graduate from the anxiety that comes from it.
Learning how to be OK with new situations, embracing uncertainty, and recognizing that success will never fully satisfy you can be an example of the following things (but not the only) that we can learn in school.
These opportunities to learn come through college and throughout our whole life prior to it, but we never acknowledge the patterns of dissatisfaction and systemic anxiety that occurs from it.
We believe its human nature and that it’s just something to deal with, but consider the possibility that you can have permanent, internal fulfillment!
It’s not too late. You have the opportunity to graduate from these shadows for the rest of your life.
How do I start? The next time you get worked up about a problem, ask yourself a couple of questions like these:
Have I had this problem before earlier in my life? Is this the same type of problem?
Recognizing that a problem occurred more than once shows that it has less to do with coincidences and external circumstances, but rather your habits that cause these situations to happen again and again.
What can I learn from this problem that I can bring with me for the rest of my life?
Whether the “problem” is an exam, a project, an argument, or debt, what can you bring with you after the event that will make a permanent change in your habits?
Is solving the problem making me happy, or am I allowing myself to be happy when the problem is solved?
This is a profound question that everyone should ask themselves. It investigates the nature of happiness and whether it is external or internal. Finding the truth will change your life forever and will free you from obligations you think you have.
What can I do to enjoy the process of solving this problem?
Imagine the quality of your work if you could enjoy school itself, whether that “school” is your office job, marriage, and so on.
Is it really a problem, or is it just a challenge?
Changing your attitude towards your problems will effect your results and your fulfillment. Imagine the possibilities of enjoying a full life instead of half a life!
Click here for the continuation of this topic: A New Perspective To Enjoy School and Overcome Test Anxiety
Lastly, United Insights would love to hear your discussion about your current life in school or how school has effected your life.
Do you still have school nightmares? What are some the craziest examples you have from experience?
Share your insights with us! – Justin