This message is for all of my dear students and friends who are struggling with end-of-semester projects, papers and exams.
Some of you may actually be looking forward to this time of reckoning. After all, you studied hard all year and just can’t wait to walk into that exam room and show them what you’ve got.
The other 99.9% of you are tired and worried.
You are not alone. I’m tired and worried, too.
I tell you this because sometimes it may seem to you that everybody else is doing fine. You look at everyone’s pictures and posts on facebook and wonder how other people do it. You may look at my own photos and get the impression that I spend my life eating ice cream at the Caffè Florian.
In fact, last night I was still hard at work when I heard La Marangona, the resounding bell of the Basilica San Marco. At midnight, La Marangona fills the city with its deep, sobering tolling, reminding us of the passing of time: another day down.
I was working because some of my students—whether they know it or not—are in trouble. I worry about them. I also worry about how best to help them to keep up their spirits; to face their difficulties with calm courage; to just keep going.
I paused to listen to La Marangona. A wave of frustration engulfed me as I thought about what I had not accomplished that day: despite my best intentions, I had not written one word of the manuscript I’m working on. It had been a long, important, productive and even, at moments, joyful day; but I did not do the one thing I had most wanted to do.
Life is far from perfect. Ask any adult at midnight. Of course, some of them will be of a more cheerful disposition than myself. All I can say is, they must be really good at overlooking stuff.
You are not alone
I’m writing to you about this because of the recent attention in the press about teenagers falling into despair. I want to tell you that disappointment, frustration and fear are emotions any sensible person feels at times. You are not alone. If you feel really bad, tell someone. I’m serious. Tell an adult you think will understand. If you prefer, call an anonymous hotline and talk with someone who is trained to listen.
If you are one of my students, please tell me. Now that I’ve written this to you, you know that I will listen. We will figure out something.
Above all, do not despair. I find it helps to ignore the emotions and just do whatever it is anyway. As La Marangona finished her midnight message, I turned from the window. I sat back down at my desk, which at the moment happens to be a kitchen table, and finished what I was writing. I made notes about what should be done the next day. And no, I did not stay up all night.
Dear students, take care of your physical and mental health. During this trying period, eat right and sleep well. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. Pace yourself. Above all, just keep moving forward.
Take it from someone who would know. Ryan Pitts is a 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor–the United States’ highest military honor–for the incredible bravery he showed under attack in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reported that, as the commencement speaker at The University of New Hampshire, Ryan Pitts had this to say to this year’s graduates:
“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to move forward in the face of it.”
Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO
P.S. I’d like to thank my friend Anna Ivey for pointing out the WSJ article. And if you’d like to talk, please click here to send a message directly to Athena Mentor.