Opinions, Column

Pumping the Brakes: The Sophomore Oomph

Gaping dents, subtly growing rust, and a large monogrammed sticker adorn the outside of my family’s dark-gray 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. This was my high school set of wheels, and it witnessed the vast majority of my coming of age. 

The thirty-minute commute to and from my all-girls high school provided a space for constant laughter, music discovery, and introspection. I experienced frequent growing pains and simultaneous girl-bossing while confidently whipping around the mean streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I chauffeured underclassmen to practice and friends to functions. During the latter years of high school, my car was a consistent companion during frigid early mornings and curfew fiascos.

But returning to my car was a novel adjustment this past winter break because a freshly minted driver took its reins in my absence. My younger brother—a wannabe racecar driver—has uncaringly worn out the brakes of my former chariot during my time away at school. Each time I embarked on an errand during the break, I had to pump the brakes to ensure the car wouldn’t veer out of control. 

Upon returning to familiar routes, anxious anticipation began to monopolize my internal dialogue as I drove the car. Nerves surrounding my upcoming second semester at Boston College engulfed my commute to most outings. Petrified thoughts of the infamous “sophomore slump” percolated into my peaceful think tank. My negativity resulted from anecdotes describing the inevitable patch of misery many sophomore students experience. The tales of stagnancy reach from troubling intermediate courses to outgrown friendships. 

Yet, as I have begun to embark on semester four of my BC adventure, I’m not feeling slumped at all. In fact, I feel an eccentric sense of conviction and clarity. To encapsulate this sentiment, I am coining the phrase “Sophomore Oomph.” An oomph is full of pizzazz and energy. I have curated straightforward day-to-day reminders and tactics to maximize your oomph in the coming months.

Pause & Reboot: 

All drivers despise speeding tickets, but most continue to hasten regardless of potential consequences. As the jam-packed weeks turn into fleeting months, it is vital to stop and give yourself a personal speeding ticket. Our time at BC is finite—there is no need for such a reckless pace.

Yet BC students are go-getters. Saying yes to tasks and nurturing endless to-do lists is an innate quality most people here possess. Nevertheless, you must take regular pauses. Ask yourself if your courses, relationships, and involvements align with the trajectory you’ve set for yourself. After this pause, allow yourself to start again. A proper and deliberate reboot will lead to beneficial new endeavors. 

Open Your Eyes and Mind: 

Partially shell-shocked from the sudden and drastic transition to college life, I acknowledge my eyes were not always open freshman year. Following others was a reflexive instinct across the board. In high school, I forced myself to drive a different route to school when I needed an attitude adjustment. These biweekly pivots resulted in newfound coffee shops, Google Maps malfunctions, and the welling of tears as Phoebe Bridgers rushed through the mesh of my speakers. These diversions didn’t tangibly change my life, but for a moment, I was able to chart a unique new course. I implore you to look at posters, engage with TAs, and compliment people in the bathroom. If you listen to your surroundings, chances are they will surprise you.  

Authenticity Is Power: 

Take it from someone who failed their driver’s test and crashed their car twice—you can’t be a phony on the road. In a period of our lives depicted by persistent and unwarranted comparison, don’t be a phony in routine. Orienting yourself to lead with genuineness in your choices and companionships has the most superb payout. Hold yourself accountable, just like the insurance company did to me! Be happy on purpose because you are the only one in command of your road map and whatever fantastic expeditions it takes you on. 

Unproductive anticipation is something BC students excel at. Curating your junior year dream housemates in Stuart Dining Hall, losing sleep over internship rejections, and harboring apprehension for study abroad placements are inefficient pastimes. 

It’s easy to relish in the cozy yet chaotic predictability of passing winter weeks, but being forced to ‘pump the brakes’ encapsulates the potential for a fresh maturation cycle. If you feel out of control in school or on the highway, just pump the brakes. Who knows, some mental brake pumping could potentially give you an exhilarating oomph!

February 11, 2024

Leave a Reply