Dealing with Thesis Year Anxiety

Dealing with Thesis Year Anxiety


When I first moved to Chicago from Southern California I just wanted to go on an adventure. I didn’t have much money.  I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t even have a place to stay or anyone to stay with when I got here.  It sounded like a great idea at first, but the closer I got to Chicago the more I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  By the time I got to Illinois, I was having a panic attack in a gas station parking lot. I called my friend Bobby who said, “Justin have you ever seen the film What about Bob? Remember, Baby Steps.”

This week I start my final year in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Media, MFA program. Only eight more months! It has been a lot of work, and I’ve learned a ton, but I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line.  However, as I get closer to my final destination, I’ve been feeling that same anxiety creeping in.

This summer, I found myself getting really nervous about my thesis project.  Somehow I’ve convinced myself that this thesis project has to be the greatest thing I’ve made and will make. This comes from a pressure to make work that will help me get work after the program.

A few weeks ago I voiced these anxieties to a friend who told me, “Justin, this is not going to be the best thing you make. It’s not going to be the last thing you make. It’s just going to be another thing you make.” I found that really comforting, and when I don’t have the self inflicted expectation that this needs to be the greatest work of art I’ve ever made (whatever that means) I can calm down and actually enjoy this journey.