university blues: the symptom of academia no one tells you about

Drawing by Daehyun Kim/Moonassi

I’ll tell you right up front: intelligence and knowledge are powerful tools, and providing them to the unprepared mind can be damaging.

There is no crash course that prepares you for the drowning of information, responsibility, and overwhelming culture shock that college slings right into your unsuspecting and unprepared face. No advanced placement, dual enrollment, or orientation could prepare you for the slap you will receive when you sit down in a desk, grab your first syllabus, or sit through your first lecture.

Don’t get me wrong, college is not what they told us it would be in high school. And for any high school kid (I know that’s offensive, I apologize) who is currently reading this, chances are you won’t face the myriad of horrifying circumstances that your teachers in K-12 ‘prepare’ you for. Maybe my university is relaxed, but I have yet to be locked out of a classroom for a one minute of tardiness. Asked why I am late? Surely. But in the end, the scariest part about tardiness is that they don’t care if you show up or not.

Hard to believe, I know. Knowing no one will track you down is also terrifying (well, unless your university has a freshman watch probation/program). You can sleep in your dorm all day, leaving only to shower or eat dinner, see some friends, or grab some coffee, if you damn well please. But this is where we roll around to something that nothing could prepare one for, and that’s university blues.

Consider this: you are free for the first time in your life. You create the schedule, you decide how/when/if you get to and from your classes, you decide your bed time, you decide if you want to eat pizza and ice cream or grilled chicken and green beans for dinner. No one can stop you from doing anything, unless you decide to smoke marijuana inside the dorm (which is highly advised against).

In this case, you sign up for a 9 A.M. in a building up a hill which, honestly, at 9 A.M. looks and feels like Kilimanjaro. Many mornings, especially the hot, humid mornings when all your clothes are dirty, you struggle to work your way out of your bed. You take that class twice a week, so you’re sure your professor won’t notice you aren’t there once a week (hint: he may not, especially if it’s a lecture course). However, this is an attendance mandatory class, something you neglected to understand or even remotely look for in your syllabus. Each class you miss is like missing a 10 point assignment, and over the course of a semester, those can add up.

You start sleeping through one class, into the next, sleeping until lunch time, snacking in your room, lights are always off, room mate is always doing something else, and you pick up a nasty habit of never leaving your room. Over the next few months, this will spiral into a crappy grade or two, a weight gain or loss, and a never-ending urge to sleep. The first semester you barely keep your scholarship. You have to do better the next semester.

You cannot run from depression, but you can learn to function with it. You go to class, listen to the mumbling, you cry often, but only when your room mate is in the shower. You go to your on-campus job, you listen to the online assignments, you do everything they say you’re supposed to do.

You make it on the Dean’s List.

But do you feel accomplished? No. Do you feel proud? No. You feel an internal sense of dread. You haven’t visited home since Christmas, and now it’s 88 degrees outside. Your friends are all going home for the summer, you’re concerned about being alone. You’re losing the only thing which maintains what little sanity you feel you have left: structure.

And that’s how it seems to unravel, those university blues. Change is hard, adjusting is hard, learning can feel like a daunting task. Those dorm rooms can become a safe-space even if you don’t want them to be. You can make the best grades, maintain your 4.0 GPA, eat healthy for dinner, but you’ll always wander outside to look up at the sky of whatever state your in and think: what the hell am I going to do with this?

And maybe it will be okay. But maybe it won’t. Some of us are cut out for academia, and some of us aren’t.