Ashley Mix

Ashley Mix


The Collective Investment
by Ashley Mix

My eyes leap over the letters, seeing everything yet seeing nothing at the same time. Information leaks out of me by pure necessity as deadlines draw closer and closer. The information has no remorse for my tired brain. It is inevitable.

Due—due—due. Last week—next month—right now.

The crush of finals week is like an ever-present anvil on my back. As a student who can only take one day at a time yet is constantly worried about the next deadline, my anxiety runs rampant. This time is anxiety’s playtime. My hands shake as I type, as I write. Reports and projects and essays, all coming together at once. What is the reason? I do not care for the reason; my brain will only quiet once the deadline has passed and my anxiety is finally exhausted. I know I will look back on my college experience and be grateful for the moments where I pushed through my anxiety and invested in my future. However right now, all I see are shaky letters, growing smaller and tighter with every keystroke.

I am one of 18,811,280 college students in America. Just one of the collective. My experience of feeling the pressure of finals week is not my own; it is shared with every single person who has worked well into the night, had a to-do list that was only a few inches long but appeared to go on for miles, or studied for an exam so much they felt as if their eyes were overly-wrung sponges.

Due—due—due. Last week—next month—right now.

I am my work. My work is me. My fingers are the harbingers of an impending call of judgement. My eyes are the overworked employees of my mind. My tongue is thick and wet with too much caffeine, as exhausted as the rest of me. Still I push ever onward, toward the moment my body will be grateful for the stress these deadlines have placed on it. Finals week has not bested me yet.

My hands still. Three things stare directly at me: walls in my mind with too many stones, crumbled and bent; letters that whirl and blur in my vision; a neat rectangle of prose that is an organized mess. I look at my finished product and wonder, “I am going to submit this? This—this mess?”

Tiredness leaks out my eyes.

Due—due—due. Last week—next month—right now.

My parents have always pushed me to be the best I could possibly be. My professors have challenged me because they believe I am capable. My classmates have understood the weight of everything, as they know its burden too. Each person has told me to just make it to the finish line. Push through, and you can rest. Think about the moment when all this is over. Their voices wail in my ears, lending unerring strength and support. No compliments necessary. Time and effort are our siblings in this family of the collective, and everyone knows that if enough attention is given to each, then the result shall not disappoint. The final investment report for the exhausted college student is the gilded piece of paper handed to them with a handshake and a smile.

I can get there. I can finish everything. I can push through another finals week, another year. After all, I am an expert on the topic of my own mind. I am the artist of my own success. I am my own investment.

One moment of stress does not a failure make.

The breaths I pull in are the billowing winds of a great forge, and I look upon my creations, my rectangles of words, the fruits of my labor, I simply push. The tiredness remains, my hands still shake, my eyes still ache, but the stress no longer feels overwhelming. Instead, it is the sole reason I push. To make it another day, to finish out another test, to edit just one more essay.

Due—due—due. Last week—next month—right now.

Shaggy and beat-up as I may be, I share in the triumphs of my peers. This is not the end of me; nor is it the end of us. Stress is not the enemy of success; it is the catalyst of the successful. Finals is not final.

Done—done—done. Last week—last month—just now.

Mary Bauermeister, Art Investment Report, Lithography, 1973

Martin Museum of Art

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