FREE VERSE: Whale Sounds It Is

Once again, in my last year of college, I find myself at midterms asking, “How does this work, again?” It’s hard, and I hate it, but in the end, it’s the life I chose and I’m learning not to further punish myself for feeling the stress and emotion fully.

Last semester, I wrote a column about how the abrasive rap artist Pusha T helped me through the stress in a very unforgiving way. When the strain of two jobs and exams got to be too much and my eyes started to get a little misty, I’d put on King Push to force the tears back, trying to find my inner dope dealer.

This semester, however, I’m determined to find a more forgiving method of getting through the anxiety. Rather than punishing myself for feeling emotional, I’m determined to be sickeningly nice to myself.

I’ll be the girl in yoga pants and soft sweaters.

This revelation came along with the clear-eyed hindsight that being in my last semester has offered. Like an old woman looking back on her life, my college life and decisions have come fully into perspective and I can decipher my mistaken ways of coping.

Suddenly, the idea of forcing myself to act and feel a certain way during times of stress seems absolutely useless and unsatisfying. I have this pang of regret for having been so hard on myself over the years.

The idea behind my listening to artists like Pusha T when I felt emotional was simply to make myself feel guilty and silly for feeling sad and stressed. In doing this, I only added more negative emotions onto myself.

So for the last midterms of my undergraduate degree, I’m refusing to be the girl grinding her teeth, pumping heavy rap through headphones, and forcing herself into a blazer and slacks. I won’t spend another semester irritably over-caffeinated and under-slept, forcing myself to look “together.”

Instead, I’ll be the girl in yoga pants and soft sweaters listening to whale sounds and getting enough sleep. I’ll cry when I goddamn want to and drink lavender tea to get through. I’m really happy with this decision.

—Mariah Taylor

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