Wednesday, April 13, 2011 myBiz Blog
Senior Anxiety and Soul Searching by Zack Zaban

I’ve always been a fan of registering for classes. The thrill of selecting the topics you’ll learn about for a semester – it never gets old.

Last week, I sat down to register for another semester. When I clicked the submit button on Student Center, my computer stopped working. The computer would not turn on and I panicked; no, I freaked out. My heart pounded as if pure fire and adrenaline went through my veins.

Suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t registering for classes, but instead was laying in a pile of sweat after having an anxiety-driven dream about graduation.

My dream served as a metaphor about my current thoughts: I’m nervous about graduating college and going into the “real world.”

Speaking with my friends on campus and at other schools, I’ve come to realize that worrying about the unknown future is not irregular; in fact, it’s actually quite normal.

In an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, professor of psychology Dr. Kelly Bukeley explained the root of anxiety during times of transition in our lives.

“Well, one way to look at this is to think of what graduations are, and for many people in our society, other than weddings or funerals, a graduation is the most powerful and dramatic ritual experience they ever go through. And graduations in some ways are our society's version of a right of passage, where we make a transition from youth to maturity. And just like other rights of passages in other cultures, graduations have aspects of an ordeal, of a trial by fire. And there's uncertainties and our old self dies in a metaphorical way.”
So I guess what I’m afraid of is not necessarily the life I’m leaving behind at UW-Madison, but rather the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Am I going to like my job? Will I have enough structure in my life? Will I keep in touch with my college friends? How will I function without a schedule of 2 classes per day and activities, like AKPsi or Hillel (two organizations that I’m actively involved with; you can insert your student orgs in here and get the general picture)? And the biggest question of all: will I be happy?

For me, the anxiety has started to come in ebs and flows. This week, I presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium regarding my study on Twitter for my senior honors thesis. As I attempted to push myself through creating PowerPoint slides, I felt my mind racing with thoughts about the future.

So, I stopped my work and went on a long run along the Lakeshore path. The clear water brushing up against the rocks had a calming effect and my mind repositioned itself.

In the true fashion of Twitter and hash tags, something that I’m quite fond of and have written about on this site before, I found myself doing something that I think all students across campus need to make time for: #soulsearching

I think that all seniors, at some point during the last few weeks, should take a step back from their chaotic UW-Madison lives to take time to think about who they were before coming to UW-Madison, how they’ve grown during their time at college and what they can do to continue their personal gains/achievements once they’re out in the real world.

Luckily, University Health Services (UHS) just rolled out a new counseling group focused specifically on coping with graduation and the transition out of college, according to the UHS website. Personally, I think this is something that students should take advantage of while they are still in the Madison area. To learn about the program, visit the UHS Counseling Groups page.

Unfortunately for myself, I don’t think that the obnoxious college dreams will be going anywhere soon. Both my parents and my brother have them, so in true Zaban fashion, I’m bound to get them as well.

Hopefully, however, I’ll have the same attitude that Bulkeley has about his own college anxiety dreams.

“And so I often wake up with that sense of - I still have this wistful desire to be in school; it was a fun, happy time for me and for many people. But I realized that's not my place anymore. That's not where my life is right now. “