Curbing future stress by learning from the past

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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School is in session. Across the country, students from pre-k to college are packing their backpacks and settling down to the structure that daily education seems to bring to all of our lives – except me.

I mean, yeah, there are plenty of people that have graduated and moved on, but I can’t help but feel a little wistfulness for the institution that’s dominated a majority of my life. This is the first August in more than 17 years I haven’t had class, and I think miss it.

Yep, rose-tinted glasses are on in full effect.

David Talley

David Talley

There was something affirming about being in school, like when the classroom door closes, you know it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. What am I supposed to be doing? Coursework. Easy answer. We’re all doing coursework. The understood assumption is that at some point we’ll all become adults and, by some internal compass, be able to answer that question without a teacher.

Texas Tech University’s December 2015 commencement ceremony was one of the last times I’ve felt 100 percent secure in what I was doing. Walking out of the United Supermarket Arena where the ceremony was held and into the cloud of adult life meant leaving those easy answers behind. What am I supposed to be doing?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 125.51 million people employed full time and they’re all doing something a little bit different – talk about a multiple-choice question.

I recently saw a post on Twitter parodying “All My Friends Are Dead” (a faux-children’s book about a dinosaur commiserating his extinct prehistoric comrades) with a college senior’s very-real experience of “all my friends have their crap together.” I can relate to that. Some of my friends have the word “executive” in their job titles.

Life was undoubtedly easier in pre-k, where my biggest problem was a lingering speech impediment.

I don’t remember a lot about school other than vaguely being aware our classroom, located in what is now Grace Baptist Church, was in a basement, which I found awesome. All of my Lego projects included buildings with basements for a while after that.

One class exercise involved discussing our parents’ jobs. Back then, my mother took care of me full time, and my father was (and still is) a pilot. Thanks to my then-speech impediment and probably a healthy dose of nervousness, I sheepishly told the class, “my daddy is a pirate.” Asking me again didn’t fix my sloppy pronunciation and just inspired me to answer louder, so the class moved on, content to leave it their understanding at David’s dad probably hunts buried treasure and wears an eye patch.

That speech impediment is mostly gone now, although I still catch myself stumbling over a few complicated phrases.

Thinking back on my favorite school memories to add to this column, I could come up with a lot. Originally the plan was to include one for each grade, but I realized how long that would take. Plus, I don’t have a happy memory for some years.

When I started writing, I thought dwelling on the past would bring relief from the stresses of graduated life, but I realized I felt this same stress at the beginning of every school year. It’s nothing new.

The future may be cloudy and a bit scary, but I think if we can learn anything from the past, it’s that we managed to get through everything up until this point.

We can do it again.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter. He graduated from Texas Tech University in December 2015.

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