Does everyone truly remember their college years as the golden age? Do people really think it’s all rosy skies and a few chapters to read and a party every Friday night? Because holy buckets, college is hard.
College is hard because the homework wheel never stops turning, and there are always, always more chapters to read, more papers to write, more projects to complete, and more tests to take. It’s like a rat race with homework; you want to get out and the only thing you can change is your perspective. The gameboard never changes – only your place on it does.
College is hard because you’re thrown into the same pool with a thousand other peers and there are no swimming lanes. Everyone has a different direction, some are just treading water, and some are changing direction every length of the pool. We’d like to think that we know exactly what we’re doing, but each professor is like an individual swimming coach, changing your stroke a little bit each time and sometimes you feel like you’ve completely forgotten how to swim. And finding someone to stick with you the whole time? Whew.
College is hard because everything normal suddenly isn’t. You say tuh-may-toe and they say tuh-mah-toe and you wonder if you’re the weird one? No one understands your quotes or “you did it, Dahhhling.” There’s no one to have inside jokes with; or not the sort of inside jokes that mean the most to you. And that’s just symptomatic, because no one truly knows you down to your core.
College is hard because you have the opportunity to start over and fill out that new person walking around campus. You get to pick and choose the parts of you to stuff into that new person, and that’s who you’ll introduce to the world in freshman orientation. But the stuffing happens irrationally. Some of the parts are your best ones–the things in you that you like. Some of them are just there because you crammed them in during that panicked moment when someone asked about them and you gave an answer based on familiarity. You’re not sure if the new you should really like that, but the old you would and that’s what’s come out. Along with all of that are the bits of the old you that will lay dormant until someone gets hurt on them when they poke out unexpectedly. And what rounds you out and makes you feel fit to burst are the pieces and parts and edges everyone and everything gives to you.
College is hard because you’re surrounded by people that you don’t know who are changing you and filling you and wanting to know you right in that moment when you are no longer certain of yourself. It’s pieces of them that strain your stitches when you act like someone else and belatedly realize they don’t fit. It’s edges of them that bump into you and make you realize the parts of you that you don’t like. It’s also those same people who wonder who you are and you spend most of the time imagining what they think of you, until you realize that’s simply how you see yourself. You truly have no control over what or how people think of or respond to you.
College is hard because there are new people to let down and disappoint, new relationships to stumble through, new introductions every-single-freaking-day, new, new, new, and it should be rosy and beautiful but it can be as exhausting as the hampster-wheel of homework.
College is hard because the only way to survive is to deliberately claim joyful things every day. The optimism feels false and flimsy but it is the only way you will not race for the hills at the first sunrise. It will be work until one day it isn’t and you realize that college is hard but not impossible.
So no, not all sunsets and roses, but maybe that’s because you remember college on the other side of impossible, when it was finally transmogrified into something gilded. I think I might question your sanity if you said freshman year was your golden age. Maybe I’ll understand it in four years.
Maybe missing you,