Telling me that classes end in less than a month seems like a belated April Fool’s Day joke. Sadly, that isn’t a joke and my freshman year is coming to a close. If this were high school, I would have stepped back and reflected on how much I had changed over the year. Because I am in some version of the real world now, I cannot step back and reflect. In fact, I do not want to step back and reflect because I know exactly what I will see: a happy-go-lucky, naïve freshman turned into a burned out, Denny’s-dependent and still naïve freshman.
I was once told that this month will be tough to get through. Me being me, I chose not to believe it and headed into April with a positive attitude. My freshmen friends and I can agree that even though we are only a week into April, we have never been this stressed before.
The stress can be best mapped out the same way the five stages of grief are described. The first stage is denial. This is probably the easiest stage, and the most comfortable one. Thinking often sounds like, “Okay, so classes end in less than three weeks and finals are right after. So what? Three weeks is 21 days. Twenty-one days is over 500 hours. Somewhere in those hours is time to study. So why worry now? I have time. I can stress out when I have 200 hours left.” You can clearly tell how bad that thinking is. Unfortunately, making yourself believe that an inevitable event will go away if you don’t think about it won’t make it go away. That denial will carry you into the second stage: Anger.
For anyone who has taken Introduction to Psychology, the book makes a point to teach you ways to cope with stress. It’s one thing to read about it and it’s another thing to actually experience it. What I’ve noticed is that the dorms become a shooting range, and people decide to throw shots at one another. Bobby does that to Annie and that really pisses off Annie’s friend. Meanwhile, Kim sees Roberto do something and Kim spreads the rumor. People start snapping at each other over little things and no one seems to have a high tolerance for bullcrap anymore. I know that I’m not perfect; I myself have thrown quite a bit of shade in the past week or so.
Why? Maybe because we are upset with ourselves. Maybe channeling our frustration onto someone else is slightly cathartic. Maybe we are showing that we accept the gravity of the situation but feel helpless about it. And maybe that is why we bargain.
Bargaining can take the form of “Why didn’t I study earlier?” or “Can’t I just pray for a curve?” Sometimes my bargains with the universe go to the extreme. I become thankful for the Veale Athletic Center being on campus so I can get into shape, because becoming an exotic dancer or hitman sounds a lot better than it did in August.
Our silly bargains can take us into a depressed-like state, and that’s where the real helplessness occurs. Have you ever had so much work to do that you decided to just take a nap instead? I do that all the time. Sometimes, I even shed tears. You practice self-hate and consider the implications of failing. This is clearly the hardest part to get through. But persevering will get you to acceptance. Once you reach this point, you can finally do it.
I’ll be real and say that I’m at that stage in-between bargaining and depression. To me, that’s okay. I think we can agree that this time sucks and we all feel like poo. If there’s one thing I preach way too much, it’s “just do you.” If you’re not real to yourself, you can get lost in the situation and you will not see the results you wanted. Freshmen are going through this for the first time and it is a scary experience. But I have no doubt that we can get through it.
Stephen Kolison is an undeclared first-year student, or in his own words, “pre-unemployment”. When not writing, he performs with IMPROVment and binges on Netflix.