Ever since I have gotten back to the United States I’ve been noticing things that I didn’t see before, aspects of the American culture that I had always seen as normal and unquestionable until I returned from living in Spain. But one of the things that stood out to me is that here people actively look for stress. Even though it sounds crazy, people do it here, and it makes my life stressful as well.

Now, if you’re living here, and you most likely will not know what I’m talking about, because it’s what you’ve seen all your life. As I said, I never noticed until I came back here from the calmer life there is in Spain. However, I suppose that I should probably set examples.

One of the biggest things is that everyone needs to be in some sort of activity, whether it be yoga, a martial arts class, the gym, or some after-school club or sport. I know kids who have a job during the school year, and are also in school sports (mind you, here they take school sports rather seriously, with a few hours every day for practice, and a few matches every week). People here are stressed to the point that they put their need for stress over their own physical health. To give you an example, I have a friend who works until 10:00 PM and has to be at school at 8:30 AM the following morning, and this friend isn’t working to support himself, this friend is working for his own unnecessary consumption. Yet, he sees this as completely normal, because sadly, it is.

But even ignoring his case, there are many people who (as I said before) join several different groups/clubs/activities, and end up with no time on their hands to do something as simple as cook dinner. I can’t exactly tell you why they do it here, but I often times see that it somehow makes them feel important, the fact that they’re always busy. I, on the other hand, find it extremely unnecessary.

However, where the factor of stress matters most is among the working class, because those are the people that have stress, not because they make it, but because they need to work three jobs and taking night shifts. So what happens is that these people get stress from all the work they’re doing, and they have to go to the doctor/psychiatrist to talk about it. Apart from having to pay the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist will likely also prescribe them with some “happy pills” which they need to pay. Now you end up with a worker who needs to work even more just to pay for his pills and psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, the big problem isn’t being solved, the fact that s/he’s still in the ghetto, which is causing all this stress.

Now, people will often misunderstand what I mean here and think I believe that psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies are all out to get you. That’s not exactly true. It’s not that they’re out to get you, it’s that that’s their job. People will do one thing normally in life, and another in their job life. A policeman might have sympathies for protesters in his/her daily life, but is obligated to arrest them in their job life.

Finally, one thing that most people don’t understand is the concept of “going with the flow”. The flow doesn’t always mean the majority, it means the path that comes easier, the path that is easier to take. A life without stress is an easy one to take, but most people don’t like it because it’s not the norm (again, I am referring to the U.S.).

All in all, stress in the U.S. is something fairly common, and something that people look for to be within the norm of people that have a job in high school, or who participate in a school sport, or who go to yoga classes or the gym. People will often do anything to be within the norm. But you have the ability to change yourself, regardless of what other people think. I will say, it’s not easy being the weird guy at times, but it’s less stressful than having to worry about every little thing you do to see if you are within the norm.