Zack Zoltek, '20

Conway Hall, Home of the Helzberg School of Business

Finding the Calm Within

By Zack Zoltek, Rockhurst Class of 2020 (applied mathematics and computer science). Zack is currently a software engineer at Google. This article previously appeared in an issue of RU Magazine.

College is a time for change and transformation. One finds oneself within the grip of uncertainty — a new environment that is complete with a new set of peers, expectations, living conditions and, most importantly, a new set of challenges. Many of the obstacles that a college student faces are quite new, but there is a familiar one that is all but universal among incoming freshmen — this little thing called “anxiety.”

For myself, as a new alumnus, those anxiety-inducing situations that I found myself in as an undergraduate are still fresh in my mind — memories of frosh weekend, cramming for finals, finding my place among my peers and putting myself out there to find my support groups.

General anxiety with respect to unknown situations is normal and to be expected, but on a personal note I found myself being far more anxious in a more general sense with respect to the University and my classes. There was an underlying sense of “unease” as I walked the campus, despite having already found my place within the community. Throughout both my freshman and sophomore years I never made any strides in addressing this anxiety, but at the start of my junior year I finally had enough. I was tired of making the transition from a carefree, enjoyable summer into a school semester that was more mentally strenuous than it needed to be. I resolved to be a better friend to myself by seeking out ways in which I might overcome my anxiousness.

To recount the exact path I took and the various remedies and tools that I utilized along the way would be far too long a process, but I can tell you first and foremost that the two most important things that helped me more than anything else was meditation and prayer. One pill that I had to swallow near the beginning of my journey was that my anxiety could not be eliminated like an antibiotic eliminates an infection. I needed to learn how to live with it and meditation helped me do exactly that. Through meditation, I was training myself to be more in-tune with the present moment — the now. In doing this, I was able to realize the effects that anxiety was having on me and I found that I was better able to navigate it. Thinking clearly despite anxiety enables me to have more authentic actions and reactions.  This leads to more clarity regarding the personal goals that I set in my life.  When I am able to think clearly in spite of whatever anxiety may be present, I have found that I am able to act in a more sincere way, which generates truthful responses from whomever I am engaging in conversation. This process creates a snowball effect until I find myself calm and collected in those same situations that used to cause anxiety.

When my senior year began, it was obvious that my generalized anxiety had been drastically reduced. In fact, I had made such incredible strides that when I was flown out to California for a full day of interviews with Google (the company I now work for), I noticed after the fact just how remarkably calm I had been during the entire ordeal — a final personal testament that said, “you’re not the same as you were before.”