Editor’s Note: This was recorded before spring break. We decided it was time to publish a few stories that are back to “normal” – whatever that is now. Sometimes, it’s nice to step back and not talk about coronavirus.
Elvis Polvon: Hi guys, welcome to Saint Stories! This is our co-host Elvis.
Rebecca Irby: And Rebecca and with us today we have freshman accounting major, Whitney Hay and freshman computer science major, Carlos Balderas. Today’s topic for the podcast is advice to your younger self. So to start off, I’d like each of us to give three words to describe ourselves right now.
Polvon: Lost, stressed out, and happy.
Carlos Balderas: I think happy, calm, but yet energetic.
Whitney Hay: I’d probably say organized, sporadic, and witty.
Irby: I would describe myself right now as stressed, tired, kind of on edge.
Polvon: So the only happy one is Carlos.
Balderas: Pretty Much!
Irby: Well… I mean, in general happy, but at this moment you know. Okay, so last week I was learning about how there’s like different seasons in our lives and chapters in our lives. Each chapter can suck but there’s also beauty in it. So what is a time in your life that you think you’ve grown from like the bad times.
Hay: I personally feel like my lowest point in my life so far is probably last semester, my first semester of college, just because I went off and I chose to play basketball which was not a personal preference deep inside but I never expressed that. I didn’t realize how truly unhappy something can make you until you’re doing it full time. I don’t know, I was completely alone.
Irby: So where did you play basketball?
Hay: Bethany college.
Balderas: Personally probably the worst time in my life has been the past three and a half years I think I’ve made a lot of personal mistakes, lots of life mistakes wasn’t really focused was dealing with a lot of anxiety depression and I feel now I’m able to grow in like, instead of taking trying to take a leap, I’m taking one foot at a time and really trying to grow as a person and I can see the difference especially within school. It’s the first time I’ve been focused and actually passionate about trying to learn something new.
Irby: So I feel like all of us were not even lying when we said anxiety. Do you think your anxiety has gotten worse when you’ve gone to college or has it gotten better?
Hay: Definitely a lot worse. Personally, I feel like my anxiety skyrocketed last semester whenever I was finally fully alone. I can’t really pinpoint a certain like reason why but I think that definitely at this age at the same time that you go to college my mind set and the way that I treat myself is not very good and causes a lot of anxiety and depression and stress.
Irby: I kind of noticed that like no matter if you’re going to college here and you’re living with your parents, or you’ve gone somewhere… like even my friends who have gone to big universities have seen that they’ve had anxiety and I think maybe it’s because when you turn eighteen like everything… you’re supposed to have everything together. And you’re supposed to figure out what you want to do with your career, you’re supposed to have a lot of money to pay for this career, and you’re going to focus on growing up and that’s like all at once.
Balderas: Personally I think it’s been the opposite for me. I feel like I’m more calm, a lot more collective and I think that’s because the past few years I really went through it. And now it’s just taking it one day at a time, really focusing on what I’m gonna do in class the next day, focusing on if I do this then one day it’ll pay, and I think that I’m so stressed it’s just not anxiety per se.
Irby: So do you think the stuff you experienced before college has helped you prepare for the stress in college?
Balderas: Definitely I think it’s made a huge difference in my life.
Hay: I think that makes more sense then as to why, I guess, mine started once I went to college… It was because not that I didn’t go through anything but I think my experiences weren’t as traumatic.
Polvon: I always try to tell myself that I can handle my anxiety and sometimes it gets super bad but I think I’ve learned how to manage it kind of because like well like senior year there was a moment when my anxiety was through the roof but like I don’t really do anything to help myself in that situation I kind of just thought like it’ll go away and getting into college, yeah, at the beginning like I was going through also kind of a rough patch it wasn’t super bad about but at the moment like I kind of release like if you want your anxiety to go down you’re going to have to take control in your life. I don’t know how to explain because you can’t take full control of your life but I started to like to tell myself “I’m okay!” but still knowing that not everything is okay but that’s okay.
Irby: And I think that’s healthy in some way you know like when I was experiencing anxiety, I was having panic attacks a lot actually and if you’ve ever had a panic attack it feels like you’re dying, and I tried to explain it to my mom, my boyfriend, my friends, and like no one understood what was going on. And then like I got to college and I was like talking to people and they’re like “oh my gosh like that’s how I feel” and so I think when you feel like that you’re not actually alone there’s a lot of other people that are experiencing and so I think at least to me finding someone that understood was helpful, it didn’t make it go away but you know I could at least describe it.
Polvon: I think it’s such a double edged sword, like you go to college and you try to explain your feelings to your parents and it’s kind of like you’re an adult now, like suck it up.
Polvon: But then you talk to college friends and they’re like” yeah I’m going through it too.” I don’t know how to explain how it relieves you but at the same time you really see nothing.
Irby: Yeah. Like it’s not going to get better.
Polvon: It’s crazy to think of it because I asked multiple adults and not a lot of them have experienced anxiety or anything similar… is it just made up in our head? Why is our generation experiencing it hardcore, because like I think we’ve all had anxiety attacks.
Polvon: And it just feels like the world is collapsing in front of you.
Irby: I don’t know the research on that but I know that our generation has been seen to have higher stress levels in school and just… everyone’s opinions are like yelling at us all the time and so maybe that can add to it but I’m not quite sure.
Polvon: What are some things you do when you’re anxious?
Balderas: Personally I don’t sleep so I try to get on my laptop or try to be on my phone and research something weird like foxes and try to get my mind off of things. I mean that, working out, anything that makes me think of something else versus what I’m actually stressed about.
Polvon: Working out does help a lot. I remember last semester, I took that individual health class and I didn’t do it until the end of semester but once I actually did like start going, I kind of did see my problems not become smaller but more manageable.
Balderas: Do you think it’s because you’re struggling with working out versus struggling with whatever else was bothering you.
Polvon: I don’t know! I don’t know the whole science behind it, but life started falling in-sync once I took the time of day to workout.
Hay: I just think that anxiety revolves around not knowing what to do with your life and like stressing out about the small things. As soon as I started to feel anxious, I immediately started lists like okay what I need to do just today and focus on that day and check each box off one at a time and realize that like I can’t do it all but yeah. personally working out does help a lot with the endorphins like pumping through your body and just getting like a regular sleep schedule.
Irby: I have a bad tendency of getting overwhelmed with the stuff I have to do so I like I like to do those as well and like when I exercise I just feel like I feel really empowered because like afterwards I’m like I did something good for myself and so I think that’s what helps me through my anxiety but another thing is anxiety is the fear of you know the unknown or what might happen is so I I like to think of things that I know aren’t going to change and so you know I think of I’m not trying to be conceited by my intelligence I know how I’m smart like I know that’s not gonna change no matter how I’m feeling or I know my parents are gonna support me I know people in my life are going to leave me no matter what my homework is telling me like all the crap that’s going on my world you know I think it’s helpful to look at the things that are constant and that might help you get some clarity.
Polvon: How do I explain this without sounding depressing? I don’t ever feel that when I am having anxiety. I don’t think anything is stable. I always think at least I have my family but then I think “what if I do something or what about this or that”. My life is so controlled by the what ifs. I feel like every time I think of it… just two days ago my niece was born and in my head I was already thinking “what if something happens to her?” I don’t know why my brain does that and it does it a lot. In high school, I would usually fall into that dark hole and I would have to tell myself “come back! what are you doing.”
Irby: It’s hard not to think of the reality that you’ve made up in your head you know because I do that too! I’m like “oh my gosh! Someone is not texting me back… they hate me. “My mom, she sounded rude… and so I’m getting kicked out of my house.” Those kinds of things freak me out all the time, but I’m lucky my parents are very supportive and so when I talk to them they reassure me.
Polvon: Ahhh… ahhh… but what if this happens?!
Polvon: And I hate that feeling but now I’ve kind of managed to think this is your reality, stop thinking so outside of the box.
Irby: I think something that helps with that… because I’m not trying to call you out but that’s like an insecurity almost, you know. Like you feel like you don’t deserve what’s going on in your life or like it’s gonna leave at any second and I think that you have to find your self worth, you need to love yourself before you can understand why others would love you. I mean, I’m not a therapist but the more I build myself up and I am more confident in myself then I understand like oh he loves me because I’m awesome not trying to be conceited but you know you’ve got to hype yourself up sometimes because if you’re always like I’m stupid, I’m irresponsible, I’m rude then everything’s going to feel like it’s temporary.
Irby: Okay, so we talked about difficult times in our lives and how we learn from them. So would you ever want to experience that stuff again?
Polvon and Hay: No!
Hay: I know for a fact that I went through what I went through in those like depressing times for a reason and that I …I literally have this qoute and I kept it by my door last semester. I was very depressed. “One day, you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and that will become part of someone else’s survival guide.” I just personally think that we all go through what you go through and you learn from it. I mean, I guess you would go through something again… sometimes people are really stubborn in their mind and they’re like “no no no” I think you should feel your raw feelings and get through it and learn from it
Irby: What about you Carlos?
Balderas: I think its made me appreciate life a lot more. I appreciate you know… I hurt my knee a couple years ago and afterwards I always talked about “man I kind of wish I did a little bit more during practice, or ran a little bit more.” You know getting something taken away from you always makes you appreciate everything else a lot more but I mean I could go back and do it all over again. I think that I would have given myself better advice from the beginning so I could have avoided a lot of those days but for the most part, I’m kind of glad I went through it.
Irby: So how have some of you guys had to deal with the shadow of who you were in high school? Some people have not let that go.
Irby: You get me. Like some people like… I’m trying to be more kind like I’ve tried to get better at that and some people are like “No. In high school she was like this this this” you know.
Hay: How do you say this without like sounding so conceited or like rude but I just feel like people who cannot let go of the past and like still see you in that light and can’t accept who you are and get to know who you are now… shouldn’t even have the opportunity to get to know who you are now, because I have definitely changed a lot and it’s for the better.
Polvon: How do I explain this? In high school, I was like in drama and like in everyone’s business and now I just think “shut up and sit in the back.” I used to be terrified of that because I wanted to be in the center front and have everyone’s attention. I’ve learned a lot from being home a lot. It is fine. With the reputation thing, I think it’s more ignorant of the people who don’t take the opportunity to meet the new you once again because everyone is pretty new again like going to college, I don’t know how to explain it… there is just this spiritual change of realizing who you are and like your friends in high school, you don’t really talk to them and your habits you had in high school, you don’t even have them anymore. Usually people who hold on to… “Oh, she used to be really mean in high school.” They usually stay in that state of mind forever. How do you expect to grow as a human if you’re not letting other people grow as humans too? Usually people who think like that will always think like that and, I don’t want to sound mean, but they most likely peaked in high school. They refuse to open up to people.
Irby: If I had beef with people in high, let that go. I have forgiven and I’ve forgotten and I’m over that… stay in your lane pretty much. Do you want to add anything Carlos?
Balderas: For a while it was kind of scaring me, I always thought maybe I peaked in high school. And I think that’s one of the reasons why it makes me want to work harder because I don’t want to be remembered for who I was and who I am now.
Hay: I think college is also hard because at the same time people talk about the social aspect of college but like you really don’t talk to anyone at all. Yeah, you see people obviously but like if you’re not branching out like you don’t really talk to like really anyone because it’s you in your own world. You go to school, you do your own work, and you sleep.
Polvon: Next question is where do you see yourself in five years?
Hay: That is the only thing I care about right now. I hope to have graduated with my bachelors or maybe my masters, I mean we’ll see how that works. I think my main concern is that I’m happy and starting the journey to like having my own family.
Polvon: I just wanna be financially stable. Being financially stable does really set the tone for your life. And if you want kids, you want your kids to be happy and how are you supposed to have happy kids with no money.
Hay: I mean in a way we started this whole podcast off talking about anxiety and that’s a major contribution to anxiety.
Irby: Money stress is…
Polvon: … is the worst stress.
Hay: I don’t think that’s superficial to say that you want that for your life. You want to be successful and happy by your own definition you know.
Balderas: I think I just want to be successful then you know that you can be able to take a weekend trip somewhere else in order to experience something new. I think one of the biggest things in my life that I really want to do is travel a lot. I want to see things I’ve never seen before. I want to have experiences I have never experienced before and I want to spend my entire life traveling or doing anything like climbing a mountain because I mean one day you’re gonna look back and be like “wow remember that time I climbed that mountain” or be able to tell your kids like “yeah I went through it but then I got better I worked hard and now I’m able to do something cool” like it’s anything really. I think everyone defines success and happiness on their own terms. Really having a why is really important too. Like, I think I was also trying to find a reason why I do everything you know, why I wake up, why I go to school still because I think it’s really easy to quit school and then start working.
Irby: Yeah it is so hard to go to school when it’s snowing!
Polvon: Okay our last question is if you could go back a year what would you tell yourself? you’re younger self.
Balderas: What my major is!
Balderas: Then say come here last year. Done high school and then done this too because I would have been done a lot sooner. I really enjoy the, you know, programming aspect of it. I really enjoy working on computers. I really enjoy doing networks and I think that would’ve just kickstarted my life a little bit faster than maybe I would have been a little bit more focused. Eventually, I would’ve been able to just get there a lot faster and really enjoy what I was doing.
Irby: So, senior year is all about planning. I was like okay I gotta get these scholarships, I’m going here, I’m gonna be in this dorm, like I was making a checklist like no tomorrow, so I would tell myself don’t plan every aspect of your life because it’s going to change. You don’t know what tomorrow brings and you gotta be prepared because I was like “oh my gosh! My plans are not happening the way I wanted!” And it freaked me out at first but I really came to terms with the fact that our lives will change and we’re just gonna have to accept. You can have a plan, you can have goals but be prepared when they change.
Hay: I would tell myself a year ago today, that I shouldn’t take things for granted. Where you are now is a great place to be in but things are supposed to change and it’s okay to only plan from sunrise to sunset. It’s okay to go one day at a time that’s actually a lot better for this point in your time… in your life. I also would tell myself a year ago that I needed a priority check.
Polvon: I would tell myself a year ago to have fun. Not to have fun and go party. I would tell myself to enjoy those last three months. I was living the last three months thinking “let’s go, let’s go”. I would also tell myself to be prepared for any curveballs.
Irby: Thank you for being part of “Saints Stories.” I think we learned a lot about each other. I think we provided some good advice for anyone that is listening to this.
Polvon: Thank you Whitney and Carlos!
Irby: Stay tuned for our next Saints Stories.