Everybody’s Miserable, Because That’s How We Get Better

[Jonathan Daniels — Unsplash]

You open your eyes for the 5th time this morning. It’s now 7:30 AM. You should have been up 30 minutes ago. Class starts in half an hour and you need at least 6 more of sleep to feel adequately semi-functional. The latest you can start walking to campus and still make it on time was 7:25. You take a look at your checking account. After dejectedly staring at a number with too many digits on the wrong side of the decimal point, you ask yourself:

“Uber or a meal today?”

There is no clear answer. You need the food to avoid collapsing in the middle of class. But you need the Uber to avoid getting there so late that it invalidates the whole point of showing up. And besides, you already failed the last test- despite the 18 hours of studying put in over 2 consecutive weekends. How much of a difference could one class make? Desperately in need of validation, you open up Tinder. Four people have unmatched you. Only one of your past 5 attempts at starting a conversation has gotten a response, and even that was nothing but a devastating “huh?”. Was your friend right? Are your wordy references to long-defunct 90’s sitcoms a bit too obscure? Maybe you’re not picking the right emojis to put in your bio.

The weight of it all comes down on your shoulders. It pushes you swiftly back into the cocoon of your unwashed sheets, where unconsciousness beckons like a 4.0, or a home-cooked meal, or a holla back, or even a guilt-free Netflix binge.

At 1:45 PM, you open your eyes. This will never happen again. Until tomorrow morning, of course.

Too often we fall victim to the cycle of thinking that we’re the only ones struggling. It’s not that hard to see why. We’re all buried under the pressure of our respective expectations; from parents, professors, friends, peers, competitors, financial aid disbursements necessary to keep yourself fed through the winter, etc. And above all, we’re subject to the endless chattering of our own fractured ego babbling at every turn:

“You should have known that.”
 “Why would you ask that on a first date?”
 “…how long have I smelled like this?”

But no matter how tempting it may be to pounce on every perceived shortcoming that plagues your frazzled self as it tumbles through piles of unfinished homework and cringeworthy pick-up attempts, you’ve got to keep in mind that yours is not a special case. Not by any measurable stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. The sum of your life’s experiences is painfully run-of-the-mill. Excruciatingly average. The only reason you don’t see this is because you’re standing too close to the elephant. But classes have been failed before. Classes will be failed again. People have creeped out and been crept on. And I’m sure if you look far back enough in history, you’ll find some cave-dwelling Mom and Dad who grunted disapprovingly as their idiot son or daughter failed to pierce the fish in an acceptable number of spear chucks.

I’m not saying you’re an idiot. I’m saying we all are. To a certain extent, we need to be. Because that’s how we get better. There’s strength in numbers, and community in misery. Nothing brings people closer together than overlapping failure. There’s growth in discomfort, and stagnation in contentment. And if things have been “just fine” for as long as you can remember, it’s probably a sign that you’re not pushing yourself. So take pride in your deepening eyebags and the growing rift between you and sanity. Allow yourself the occasional slip-up- applaud it, even. You’re here, and you’re trying. As long as you keep taking shots, you’re bound to miss a couple of them. But, that’s alright. Just remember to take an honest look around you:

Nobody’s hitting the target, we’re all just trying to get closer to it.

But, seriously. Get up. Four snoozes is more than enough.