Freshmen are creatures of habit. If the behavior of the typical first semester freshman isn’t indicative of the crazy train going to dysfunction junction, then I do not know what is. You can’t really blame us. We were advised about the difficulties the first semester of college would be. But it wasn’t until we actually experienced what college had to offer that the advice we were given started to make sense. Perhaps the reason we strayed from the proper path was because straying proved easier and more comfortable than dealing with the task at hand. Now with our first semester behind us, and three and a half months left in the second semester, our behaviors are beginning to change. Spring semester has given us only two options: shape up or ship out. I know for myself and the others around me, the effort we put into shaping up could rival any Olympian.
For the record, shaping up does not mean having every important feature of your life in order. If you ask me what I want to do with myself after graduation, I will act as if you’ve asked me to solve quantum mechanics or explain the ending of “Inception.” I think that it is okay to be confused. Needing an answer for every question is unnecessary. The answers will come when the time comes.
Shaping up to do this college thing is a process. You can’t expect to run a marathon without training for it first. The most annoying and unavoidable part of shaping up has to be starting small. It is frustrating to have to go through slow, tedious steps in order to get desirable results. Whether it is adding study time to a weekend or having to trudge through the snow to get to a private tutoring session, the effort can be exhausting. Then there is the step that involves sacrifice. For someone who loves his TV, that can be difficult. Delayed gratification at times can be rather painful, but it makes it clear that you still have power over your own life.
My favorite thing about getting your stuff together would have to be the awareness that comes with it. You notice that other people are going through the same thing as you. There is some kind of comfort in knowing that someone is in the same boat as you. It is even better knowing that that person might as well be your co-captain. You take notice on your own acts and you become more honest with yourself. As much as people call each other’s BS, there is more satisfaction in calling out your own BS and fixing your own problems. Success in college is partly due to self-awareness because it gets unproductive behaviors out the way.
Just when you think you have the college thing figured out, you fall off the bandwagon. It happens. When I’m stressed or exhausted, the last thing I want to do is think of a test. Sometimes you will take a nap that might as well be considered hibernation, Netflix’s red glare will keep you online for three more episodes of “House of Cards,” or you will stay out a little too late. If I’ve learned anything from college is that you have to do your own thing. If getting your life together can’t be celebrated properly or if you can’t unwind after a bad day, then have fun going crazy.
Rewarding yourself is as much of a part of shaping up as the small steps you took in the beginning. I am a firm believer in treating yourself. Of course you will have the people who will judge and make it seem like putting your life in order is some kind of competition in Sochi and that those who aren’t focused 24/7 will fail. But if this were Sochi, we would all be locked in bathrooms and drinking discolored water. Not everyone will have the exact same experience in college, so comparing one person to another person is futile. When the time comes, you just “gotta do you.”
Even though college is more bearable this semester, it will probably never get any easier. I would prefer it to remain difficult in all honesty. The feeling of accomplishing something after working hard is great because it is proof you can handle whatever college wants to give you.
Stephen Kolison is a first-year undecided student, or as he likes to call it, “pre-Unemployment.” He is a member of IMPROVment, is featured in Eldred Theater’s play The Bald Soprano and enjoys knitting hats while binging on Netflix.