I love to be stressed. Feeling my blood pressure rise and my face flush with the heat of all the things marked into my agenda. Carrying my coffee thermos forever tucked under one arm and making emails and phone calls that, for one reason or another, feel important. Being constantly out and about – seeing the most friends I’ve seen in weeks – but only for the ten seconds it takes for me to smile and wave as I hurry past them on the side walk.
I’m not sure when it started. My junior year of high school was the first year that I was forced to balance intense academics with extra curricular activities. It was definitely the hardest year- but also undeniably the most fun. I worked hard and I played hard. When it started feeling like too much, I found ways of coping, some healthier than others. As one of the healthier options, I started drinking coffee. I didn’t even really like the taste. But I liked (and like) the way it feels like there’s a buzzing behind my eyes and I don’t even notice if I’m talking a lot. Junior year was the first time I learned what it felt like to feel relaxed. Until I experienced real stress, I didn’t appreciate the downtime.
After taking my second semester of senior year off and having an entire semester to experience what un-stressed feels like, I seem to have developed two personas. One wants to wear pencil skirts and button downs, take her coffee black, talk too quickly on the phone and have her people call your people. The other wants quilted maxi skirts, ridiculously flavored lattes, poetry notebooks and a few extra minutes to stop at that unexplored antique store. Either way I’ll be drinking coffee, so there’s one thing I am certain about.
I think I want to be that second girl. Reading poetry, making art and dancing make me feel alive in the purest, happiest way. But when tied down to a daily routine that keeps me solidly wrapped in academics, I start looking for any way to feel more connected with myself, to feel fully awake. And while it may not be pleasant, three cups of coffee and a mounting to-do list sure as hell wakes me up.
I need to strike a deal between the two personas. Somewhere between pencil skirts and tye dye is not the personas, but the person. Mixing the unparalleled excitement of organizational and academic challenge with the opportunity for lazy Saturday’s and incense-lit afternoons will create not only a more pleasant life, but also a most interesting one. After all, who says tye dye doesn’t go with pencil skirts?