After two years of existing as a clueless underclassman who can’t tell Stokes North from Stokes South, upperclassman-ship is finally upon me.
The glitz and glamor of being a junior is nice, but nobody talks about the instantaneous rush of stress that comes with planning life after college. This is what I call the Junior Slump—a phenomenon that only goes away after students define their postgraduate plans, when suddenly the importance of grades, number of activities, and a perfectly balanced social life can fade away.
At first, I was thrilled to be a junior. My life looked like it was in good order. Still, looks can be deceiving. Soon after starting my junior year, the feeling of being “one of the only people in my family to go to college” enveloped my every action. The once-careless inner voice of freshman-year me, telling me to just enjoy the next four years, turned into a voice saying, “We have shit to do.” That voice can be motivating to some extent—until it decides that eating and sleeping are no longer productive uses of my time. At this point, I would argue that “making the most out of your years at BC” really means “filling every hour of the day with either studying or crazy memories to tell your kids.”
As a junior, it feels like there is no more room for mistakes. No one gives us upperclassmen the leeway to fail, as our mistakes are now unjustifiable. After all, we are supposed to have our lives figured out by now: jobs, personality, and relationships. We have the wisdom of two college years under our belt, so we now act as role models for underclassmen and should allegedly feel secure in who we are and what we want to be.
I’m not secure. I have no idea who I am yet, nor will I anytime soon—and I think that’s the way life should be.
The purpose of life is not to answer the question of “who am I” but rather “what have I learned?” It’s important to realize that we are still young people. I still ask my dad questions about how to fill out paperwork, and I still ask my grandma how to cook—we don’t know it all. In the grand scheme of things, we know so little, yet we place crushing pressure on ourselves to become perfect members of society immediately when the University places our diplomas in our hands.
If we work so hard in college only to be burnt out by the time we enter the work force, what’s the point? That is not the way to go. I believe this internal pressure is useless. Many of us have inherited generational dreams from our families to succeed in our careers, sure—but these bright futures we’ve promised ourselves won’t work out if we leave college unhinged due to stress. That’s not to say that the goal isn’t to be the best we can be, quite the opposite. Rather, I suggest that we hardworking college students can be better in the long run if we forgo the pressure and just live. Live life in your own lane: the biggest threat to happiness is comparison. If we base our life on how others are doing and place overwhelming pressures on ourselves to do well, college will not be the best four years, but instead the point where you begin to become bitter.
Last month was when I felt the slump the most. I placed an unsustainable amount of pressure on myself to execute an overbooked schedule with no down time whatsoever, and when that plan inevitably failed I blamed myself for not working to my fullest capacity. If I had just adapted to challenges rather than immediately stress out, there would have been a much better outcome.
But alas, it’s a good thing I’m still learning. The junior slump is very real, but the key to getting out of it is to grow in life at a responsible pace—rather than to try to perfect your life all at once.