Not Worth the Puff of Air

Ella Schuellerman, Arts and Life Editor

“Look at the tree and not the forest.” My mother has been saying that to me over text, over the phone and over FaceTime for the last few weeks, as I have become increasingly anxious of the unknown. Unknown plans for the summer. Unknown housing arrangements for senior year. Unknown post-graduation plans. It is unknown where life is going to take me next. Let me tell you, these are overwhelming thoughts for anyone. 

There are many challenges and obstacles we face throughout our lives.  Yet, even if they are nowhere close to happening and just on the horizon, they somehow still bug us until they do happen. We are constantly presented with challenges that test our ability to cope and work through them.

Right when 2020 came, I looked at it as the year where I could catch a break. I know that sounds like I lived every day “hoping for the best, expecting the worst,” but that is how I felt. While I am a fabulous multitasker, it is probably not a good idea to push a bunch of tasks and emotions on yourself. 

I like to think of getting through these challenges like blowing up a balloon. Every time a stressor or challenge comes into your life, you puff a bit of air into that balloon. As you put more and more on your plate to grasp a handle on, the balloon gets bigger and bigger. Just like many college students, I have a lot on my lap, so that balloon blows up really fast.

You know what happens to a balloon when it gets too full? It pops. It explodes. That air goes all over the place and you don’t get it back. That rubber rips apart and cannot be put back together. According to Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph. D as quoted in Psychology Today, “what you may not realize is how much your overall well-being and health are affected by the little annoyances and frustrations of everyday life.” 

The tiny hassles of life are not worth that puff of air into your balloon. Misplacing your keys for five minutes, a 25-degree Monday morning, a customer at your part-time job putting her crankiness onto you, not getting a good parking spot; they should not be worth a breath! We have many other important things to focus on. 

That’s the other thing. Often times people say, “I have more important things to worry about today,” when their plate gets too full. Instead, why don’t we change the narrative for ourselves to “I have many important things to focus on today.” This small change from that voice in our heads can help us realize that challenges should not be putting us down, they should make us want to get up and get them done. 

It’s funny looking back to eight hours ago on a beautiful Cleveland day: blue skies, birds chirping, my boyfriend making eggs. Yet the very first thoughts in my head were, “I need to FaceTime my long-distance best friends, I need to record a video for an internship, I need to start studying for my three exams, I need to write a freaking column this week.” Instead of breaking it down and taking one thing at a time, I literally woke up from a good night’s sleep and had already started worrying. 

After some long, calming breaths, some dry scrambled eggs and simply taking a minute to think it through, I knew I could do this. I could enjoy a beautiful day and take it one step at a time. I visualized an entire forest of challenges to check off, but then reminded myself that I just needed to look at one tree right now. After that tree, off to the next one.