Sometimes I Can’t put down the Problem Set

While to some this title might signify that I am a nerd who is so enthralled in this week’s differential equations homework I just can’t break to respond to that text or go meet up with some friends, it is really how I feel when my anxiety takes over (and sometimes if its a cool problem).

Even with medication and regular therapy, the act of turning in assignments can be a true pinnacle for my anxiety. Whether it’s turning in a problem set or essay, the symptoms are all the same: read over my work, get to the end, and start again, for hours during the worst cases. Typically, at that point I am on the phone with my mom talking through, convincing myself to put whatever assignment away. I experienced it with simple writing assignments freshman year, and I experienced this last week with my math homework. It is still a work in progress on how to cope with the fear of imperfection.

Imperfection. It’s a scary word. I tend to think of it in terms of grades because those numbers are what teachers and professors have been utilizing since I was in first grade to tell me how I am performing. Then it gets more complicated, with curves, GPAs, how is my performance compared to others in my class, all is dangled in front of me so I continue to strive for that perfect score.

Over the last two years, as I have started to balance my school work with other research opportunities and part-time work, I have come to see that grades are not the judgement used to determine how you are performing, but hard work and dedication, measured through goals tend to be the method of choice. While I do still put 100% into every task I decide to take on, personally this method of ‘performance grading’ results in much less anxiety on my part, which is why coming back into grades this semester has been difficult.

I yearn to be back working with a team all of the time, striving to achieve the goals and KPIs set at weekly meetings and discussing what’s going well and what need improvement. I enjoy this open dialogue, and feel that it is lost in large and even small lectures. So far my classes are okay, but I am working on how to bridge these feelings and apply my mindset to strive to complete work to the best of my ability as opposed to striving for perfection.

More thoughts on this to come as the semester continues.