Orientation week and Fall Quarter matched our college label as freshmen: It was fresh, exciting and new. Our week was defined by fear, anxiety, excitement for Six Flags, the tedium of introductory games and awkward silences with other freshmen. The novelty of our college experience even motivated some of us to excel. Our introductory quarter was definitely eventful.
Winter has caused this excitement to wane for some of us. Watching videos on Hulu and wearing flip flops in the shower have now become part of our routine. We find ourselves constantly immersed in midterm season, while the remnants of our Christmas spirit are quickly dissipating with the vicious Evanston wind. Going to the library or gym has become much harder, and those of us from Florida and California are rethinking our decisions to come to the colder side of the country (mainly because the novelty of snow has lost its appeal). Winter Quarter is simply grueling.
Some of us still feel like high school students dropped into the adult world. Our egos have been slightly bruised because we have been placed around people who match or exceed our ambition and intelligence level. In light of this, we are gradually learning to judge ourselves according to our own merit and to monitor our personal improvement because the days when everyone knew each other’s GPA, or who the person ranked fifth in the class was, are gone. The days when we simply took courses to impress colleges have disappeared. Now, every course seems to count towards a greater life goal; every decision is a significant step towards our career choice (if we’re lucky enough to know it). The pressure is almost suffocating.
Pursuing our self-identities at Northwestern has made us more lost than ever, highlighted our insecurities and cast shadows on our dreams. It has made them smaller, more reachable. Some of us have already succumbed to the dreams of our parents or worse, to the fear of failure. Others have stopped dreaming completely, as they have suddenly realized the difficulty of attaining their goals. Our aptitude to “change the world,” “make a difference” or some other clichéd phrase we noted in our college essays no longer exists. We are giving in to the social and academic challenges of college. We are accepting mediocrity.
Most of us, having more free time, are finding ourselves becoming better masterminds of the art of procrastination. Others feel pressured by the grandiosity of the college experience and by the expectation to do everything. We can’t. I know most of you have read inspirational quotes by one of your “deep” Facebook friends, who have told you there is no such thing as “can’t.” Bullshit. There will be moments when you can’t understand the tedious chemistry professor. There will be days when you will be glad to receive a C on your test. There’ll be times when you’ll be turned down by the sorority you loved or the internship you hoped so hard for. Here is another cliché for you: Don’t give up.
We are in part two of three of freshman year, deep into the cold dark days of winter, but we should be fired up and excited to perpetuate newfound freedom. Encountering failures and celebrating successes, we can still learn to push through this difficult introductory year. Flip over the page, freshmen! We’ll soon be entering part three of three, when the warmth could incite smiles and the expectation of summer could motivate us to push through the remaining weeks of this season.