Pictured: a diagram helpfully illustrating what kinds of ions do and do not go together.

Pictured: a diagram helpfully illustrating what kinds of ions do and do not go together.

This semester’s finals are more stressful for me than usual. That’s mainly because I’m performing in The Nutcracker this weekend, and, as anyone with much of any experience in the performing arts knows, theater week and free time go together like two ions with the same charge, (that is, not at all) even without finals. Even so, I’m inclined to think that final exams aren’t quite as horrendous as most students think. I can’t help being a little annoyed at my classmates’ facebook statuses about the horrors of final exams. Admittedly, I have been known to post facebook statuses calculating my chances of survival or making hyperbolic jokes about the evils of finals, but a lot of people say those kinds of things a lot more frequently and a lot more seriously.

first world problemIt reminds me of the “first world problem” internet meme. They show a picture of a crying face (most of the ones I’ve seen use the same woman’s face) with a caption expressing a laughably petty complaint, often having to do with slow wifi or having an excessive amount of food. I would consider the stress of finals to be a somewhat more serious complaint than those types of things, but it still is pretty petty in the grand scheme of things. There are an awful lot of people in the world who don’t have access to education, and who would much rather worry about finishing a final paper on time or getting a good grade on a really difficult exam than about how they will keep their family fed.

In fact, I find it a little surprising that, even in the relative ease of this affluent culture, so many college students don’t seem to have bigger concerns than final exams. Again, I’m being somewhat hypocritical by saying that because I admit I obsess over grades to the extent of losing sight of things in the world outside of the narrow realm of undergraduate-level academia. At the moment, though, final exams are only one of several things I have to worry about, and not even the most stressful. It’s a little hard for me to devote all of my mental energy to school when I’m also worried about money, about the ever-present possibility that my car will suddenly blow up or burst into flames while I’m driving, and about what the camaduka my life is going to do, because it sure doesn’t seem to currently be in the process of doing anything that actually matters.

But really, those are all “first world problems”, too. Especially the one about the car. As scary as it is to drive a car that is less safe than a higher-quality car would be, it’s pretty awesome that I have a car at all. Sometimes, after I park and start to walk away, I turn around and look at the car and think about how many important things that machine gives me the ability to do, and how nice it is to have it. And then I go back to worrying about what might happen next time I drive it. But the freedom that my car gives me outweighs the risk, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. And I don’t have to worry about certain other dangers like the possibility of starving to death, and I live in a college dorm room instead of on the street, and I live in a society where I am relatively safe from violence, at least in comparison to countries with ongoing wars on their own land.

So, even though I’m going to be complaining about finals throughout the next several days, and even though I’m surely going to whine about how tired I am, and even though I’m going to continue being extremely worried about all of the various aspects of life that are going wrong or that could go wrong, I think it’s worth pointing out that those are all fairly petty complaints. I mean, at least my wifi is working just fine at the moment.