Self-perpetuating stress at the College

College is hard. School is hard. Life is hard.

College is a hard, challenging time in every person’s life. By definition.

And life at the College of William and Mary is doubly so.

Over the past four years, I’ve watched friends, acquaintances, strangers, teachers and workers all crumble under the pressure that comes with being here. And that is okay.

The pressure is immense. We have classes, tests, clubs, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, whoever and the compulsive need to make lists to keep track of all of these things.

And that is good. It is good because it motivates us, organizes us and drives us to be better. These are all admirable qualities, all to be strived for.

But if I am thankful for one thing I learned here, it is this: There is more than one way to skin a cat. The saying is cliché but the sentiment is true.

Although the goal may be the same, the ways of getting there are infinite. And that, I think, is beautiful.

But it is also terrifying. We are too smart for our own good. For better or for worse everyone here is brilliant — everyone.

And I think that everyone here understands that, even though we may not say it enough.

But we should. Because I think the College has had an identity problem. We’re all shy, socially awkward, weird, strange, brilliant human beings. Do not let this terrifying fact get to you.

You are, again, too smart for your own good. So am I.

But I think that the reason I feel confident enough to write this here is because of the skills and knowledge that I have picked up at the College.

Facts are our friends.

As a reporter for The Flat Hat for the past four years, I have a lot of faith in facts. But don’t let them get to you too much.

“Feelings” come from your brain, too. (Isn’t that cool?)

Feelings are important, but fragile. They are a lot harder to digest in bite-sized bits we can scribble on index cards. So, my message is this:

Use your brain. It is a powerful thing. If someone comes to you with their feelings, be careful. They’re fragile things and need your care.

I think it is a terrible thing that students feel they are out of options. Because, in my opinion, that isn’t true. It never is.

They say God (or whoever else you choose/don’t choose/have ambiguous and conflicted beliefs about) closes a door, but opens a window. This, I think, is true for everyone.

But keep this in mind: You are too smart for your own good. While the windows may be a viable option, have you considered the back door? The side gate? The many other windows that I understand are quite standard features of modern architecture nowadays (and maybe if you squeezed you could just make it through the chimney).

And there is always someone to help you. You are not alone (even when you want to be).

Two people could totally break down a door if they tried, and two students at the College may even design a robot to do the job way better than any human ever could.

My point, again, is this:

You are smart.

There are always options, and extremely intelligent people to help you consider them and make the best choice (that also may be kind of cool if you really think about it).

All you need to do is ask.

Email Chris McKenna at


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