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The deepest hole

Posted: October 28, 2014 9:18 a.m.
Updated: October 29, 2014 1:00 a.m.

July 27 marked the beginning of the most stressful week of my life. It began with the surprising news of my aunt’s passing, and on top of having to deal with that, I also had to get through my last week of two summer classes and do work for two other classes that would end the following week.

The same week that my aunt passed away, I had to study for and take two final tests, do two writing assignments (one being a research assignment) and start on a final project for my writing class, try to do something for my academic internship and start on my portfolio to turn in the following week to receive credit for my internship. I had to take my two tests and do my two writing assignments by Thursday of that week.

Prior to receiving the devastating news, I was already stressed about my Spanish final because after 10 weeks of taking the course online and pretty much having to teach myself, I was still uncertain about some of the rules concerning what I was supposed to learn. I only absorbed a small portion of the material. Learning that the final would count for 40 percent of my overall grade really made me a nervous wreck.

My worries about my science class sprung more from the idea of having to study to refresh my knowledge of dozens of terms and formulas -- passing the class was not much of a concern. I seriously felt like I was trapped in a hole that was constantly deepening.

I worried about my internship because I had to accumulate a total of 150 hours over the span of eight weeks and at the start of this particular week, I was short about 35 hours. I had a legitimate excuse to take time off for the week and I knew the editor-in-chief would understand, but I still felt a duty to do something that week. Having to start on my portfolio -- which had to include the mission statement of the place I interned, a five page reflection, copies of everything I had published in the paper, weekly sheets with the amount of hours I finished each day and a description of what I did each day, and a reference and a rating sheet of my performance from the editor-in-chief -- heightened my concern.

Trying to comprehend my aunt’s passing while trying to figure out strategies for studying and getting everything done on time really made my head spin.

Somehow, I was able to put grieving on the back burner. I refused to allow myself to become overwhelmed with grief since I had to keep my head clear to keep my focus on and power through my obligation to academics.

I went along with my normal schedule, although reality peeked in time from time throughout the week. The same day my aunt passed away (Sunday), I visited my grandfather and step-grandma in Kingstree to offer my condolences. Aside from the tears and occasional silence, it felt like a regular day.

Monday, I called the editor-in-chief at my internship, told her the news, accepted the “I’m sorry for your loss” and took on an assignment. I conducted my interviews Tuesday and began putting the article together that same day, but I got a little sidetracked by family and friends texting and calling to check on me and my mother. The constant check-ins scrambled my thoughts and caused me to lose focus and interest in writing that day, so I shifted my attention to studying.

On Wednesday, I immersed myself in studying again and I did the same on Thursday just before I had to go take my two finals. Studying for Spanish did not pay off because, just as I suspected, I did not do well on the test. My anxiety intensified, and I feared that Spanish would keep me from obtaining my degree at the end of the summer semester.

Friday, I shoved my courses out of my mind’s focus and went back to Kingstree for the wake. It was only right that I give my family and aunt the same attention that I gave to my studies. I was able to turn my attention to my aunt because I had not grieved at all that entire week, so I went into the day of the wake almost as if it was my first notification of her death.

My aunt, uncle, myself, mother and step-grandmother were the first to view my aunt. I held up nicely -- no tears at that time. However, I cried when the funeral director showed us the tribute video. Seeing her alive and well made me remember the person she was and everything she had done for me while I was at school in Rock Hill.

Everyone has to go at some point in time, but when someone so full of life passes it seems to be tougher to swallow. She really lived in her 46 years. She never married or had any children, so she was able to dabble in all kinds of business ventures and do a lot of traveling. She touched the lives of many with her upbeat spirit and ongoing efforts to succeed.

She was never defeated, never discouraged, never sad or angry (she never let it show) and never mediocre -- the type of person I strive to be.

In the midst of tragedy, I learned not to dwell on things or worry. My eyes really opened when I found out that I passed my Spanish class and realized that I put myself in a hole much deeper than it had to be. Life is short so worrying one day and promising to live the next is not acceptable. I can’t promise that I will never worry again but I can promise that I will never let worrying interfere with living. I refuse to let my anxiety over one thing trump everything else that is important in my life.

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