Enter the mind of a stressed college student

Featured Articles

An illustration of a student alone on big human head surrounded by water and sharks. Concept conveying the mind of a stressed college student and imposter syndrome.

My mom’s words echo through my brain— “you aren’t trying hard enough.” | Photo credit ©enjoys25 / Adobe Stock

Enter the mind of a stressed college student

This is a short personal story about one of the mental struggles many college students face today: imposter syndrome. It is something that is simply not talked about enough in our competitive society. Some of us don’t even know we are suffering through it because so many of us have it— it is almost rare to not have it. In this society, we are meant to be “weeded-out,” our fates are decided through a test score. Enter the mind of a stressed college student.

Grocery bags dig bruises into my wrists as I bolt up the countless stairs— panting as I finally turn into the corridor that leads to my dorm on the sixth floor.

The monotonous schedule of the school had been ingrained in me: class 9 am-4 pm, homework 5 pm-11 pm. So, today I decided to change things up by taking an overdue trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week. It seemed like a well-deserved serotonin break after a long day of class. Right as I unlock my door, my heart drops.

A tsunami of thoughts floods in, reminding me of everything I need to accomplish for the evening, enveloping me to the point of defeat.

My groceries fall to the ground, cartons of eggs cracking and smearing a scramble of a yolky mess across the glistening tile. I look up to meet eyes with the elephant that has crept into my room, on time to pay its nightly visit. Its presence is suffocating—almost dominating— yet I ignore it, hastily getting to finishing the overwhelming list of assignments plaguing my brain.

However, I can’t escape its taunting gaze. Its presence slowly grows with every math problem I cannot solve. Its long trunk wraps tightly around my neck, choking the air from my throat with every glaring assignment I refuse to begin.

My mom’s words echo through my brain— “You aren’t trying hard enough.” My head throbs, my face flushing with frustration and rage. “If everyone else can do it, why can’t you?”

My palms sweat profusely, droplets smudging the math problems I spent hours working on into an inky blob of failure.

I gaze over to the similar mess of yolk and eye one resilient egg: the last survivor among its peers. It lies there, seemingly frail and motionless. Yet, there is a riot of change taking place behind its dull exterior— a storm that is working every passing second to turn a disorganized, messy mass of cells into a developed, independent life. I wonder what unpredictable complexity is hatching behind the pale, porcelain façade this egg shows the world.

I reach for the phone as one last attempt at sanity—crying, screaming— hurling emotion into the tiny black screen to break free from the elephant’s shackle on my mind.

I hear a loud crack behind me— realizing the egg was breaking apart with every cry of despair, I let out.

The voice on the other side of the screen reciprocates with words of comfort, consolation—love. “I know it is hard, but I am here for you,” I hear through my muffled cries.

My heart slows, and my mind refocuses: I refuse to surrender. I look down at the egg, revealing an extraordinary eraser from its broken eggshells— an unusual yet effective weapon against the elephant.

I frantically rub the eraser over the elephant’s strong trunk, releasing tension from my throat— I inhale sweet air, marinating in the words of solace.

It slowly dissipates into oblivion— I exhale out the demon I have created for myself.

But, I realize an eraser can never truly eliminate its work; a shadow of the elephant remains.

I’m free, for now, until battle again tomorrow.

Article by
Nikhita Joshi

Nikhita Joshi, the author of "Enter the mind of a stressed college student," is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society & Anthropology. Apart from occasionally taking a stab at creative writing, she loves to dance, go on long bike rides, and play the flute.