My Mid-College Crisis

By: Nicole Bates

I always heard the cliché: “College is the best four years of your life.” However, since arriving at college, I have become skeptical of this statement, because if college is the best four years of your life then I guess life is just downhill from here!

Now don’t get me wrong- college is fun! I love getting drunk with my friends on the weekend and having very little responsibility, but I think to myself: “There must be something more to it than this.” I know I’m getting deep here, but seriously! When you think about it, that cliché does not make sense. College may be the most reckless four years of your life, or the years where the most change happens, but is it really the BEST four years of your life?

I wonder to myself if that cliché has been spread as a means of control. They tell you that, so you are motivated to get good grades in high school, get into college, and get a degree. Then you can “contribute something meaningful” to the world. But sometimes I find it is easy to lose sight of why you are really here; to learn and grow as a human being. And in that case, you are really just following a socially constructed path: you graduate, get a boring, well-paying job, start a family and live in the suburbs. Before you know it, you’ll be just like your parents!

I am letting my cynicism take over a little here. I don’t necessarily think that lifestyle is a bad one. For some people, their goals revolve around stability and family. However, I feel as though the system doesn’t really allow room for students, who may not necessarily fit that mold, to explore other options.  So, now that you have some idea of my stance on college, let me tell you about the mid-college crisis I experienced when I arrived at school this fall.

I have never felt truly settled at UMass, but I think coming into my junior year, I went into full-on crisis mode. With two years in and two years left I thought: what am I actually doing here?

I’m starting to get antsy because now the novelty of being away from parents and going out to college parties has worn off, and I’m left to think about what I am actually getting out of an education that is costing me (and my parents) tens of thousands of dollars every year, and will leave me in debt for years after I am finished.

So, there I was a few days into the semester, sitting in my dorm room, having a BREAKDOWN. I was questioning my major, questioning my intelligence, and most importantly realizing I had become completely disillusioned by my education.

I called my parents and told them: “I know I’m a junior but I think I have to change my major.” Coming into this year I was a communication primary major with a theater secondary major and a minor in French. But I wasn’t fully invested in what I was learning; I missed reading challenging books in English class, I missed learning about animals in biology, and I never thought I’d say it but- I missed math. I discovered I actually love learning, and if I am going to be paying for this education, I want to feel like I am being educated.

My Dad’s solution to this crisis was to drop out. And I’m not going to lie; I seriously considered that as an option. But when my roommate heard me on the phone and gave me a worried look I knew that wasn’t a serious option.

I would be sad if I left.

Because as disillusioned as I had become at UMass, I knew I still had some good things going for me. I have amazing friends, in-state tuition and access to university resources I would not otherwise have access to.

Realistically, looking back at my life decisions, I think I would have really benefitted from a gap year, and I wish that was presented to me in high school as a viable option. But there’s no point in dwelling on the past, so I decided I needed to pull myself together and figure my shit out.

So, I acted.

I changed my secondary major to something where I felt I would be more intellectually engaged, and now in my four years I will come out with a double major and two minors: talk about making the most of your time here!

If you are anything like me and college isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t get discouraged. And if you are younger than me and already questioning your major, DO NOT HESTITATE to explore your options. Because in the end, your undergraduate major won’t really matter, so you might as well study something you are passionate about.

A cliché I do agree with is “everything is what you make of it.”

No matter what kind of college experience you are having- make the most of it. Because though I don’t think it is necessarily the best four years of your life, it is definitely an influential period in a young person’s life, and you should be stimulating your mind in classes, in conversations with peers and in exploring everything the world has to offer.

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Why Do Depressed People Sometimes Seem Happy?

On the surface it doesn’t make sense how a depressed person can appear happy but when you dig a little deeper there seems to be a reason why:

They tend to see the world as it truly is. Not what their parents have told them. Not what the media has showed them. Not what their holy books have taught them.

They just see it for how it is; a world that puts more emphasis on superficiality and completely detached irony than on what is real.

They assume that others are feeling just as depressed as them and in turn feel they feel a need to be a symbol of happiness, joy, and strength.

But this is not a healthy way to think.

I had an English teacher in high school who said their one belief was:

“Everyone should have a therapist”

In typical suburban smart-ass white boy fashion my first thought was:

“Uh oh, here comes another one of those crackpots trying to impose their crazy ideas on me. Just because you need therapy doesn’t mean I need it”

Because I’m perfectly fine.

I’m pretty fuckin’ great.

Looking back on it I think my thought process was based on what I perceived therapy to be- a treatment for the broken.

To say you need therapy would require a conscious internal belief of saying:

I’m not ok”

But I ask you to think about it like this:

If your car’s engine was completely broken- would you deny that it broke? Would you rationalize your decision based on hope alone that the engine would get better by itself? 

Or would you take it to a mechanic and get it fixed?

“But what if I know a lot about cars- can’t I just fix it by myself?”

Yes, but keep in mind that this is not an oil change- this is a total car repair.

To try and fix the car by yourself will take you months, years, or even decades. It is certainly possible but highly inefficient.

But what if you decide that instead of a solo mission this project will require a team? 

Suddenly you realize that the team doesn’t even have to be mechanics:

They just have to care.

All the members of this team probably know very little about cars on their own but together they compile their personal understandings and find out that with all the new information they can start to see something they weren’t able to see before.

This team gains momentum.

Granted, it is slow at first; painfully slow.

But then suddenly each member of the team has a thought that appears through the darkness. It is likely similar to the experience a pilot feels after emerging from storm clouds and severe turbulence to suddenly see light again.

“I think I know about cars”

But this analogy is not supposed to be literally about cars; this analogy is about life.

I can finally see the value of therapists; but I never went to one.

Because the main role of the therapist at first is simply to help you recognize how your past has impacted where you are today.

And I already knew. 

The only reason I didn’t start healing sooner is because I was appalled by what I realized.

The second role of the therapist after showing you how your past has affected your present is to give strategies for ways to move about your life going forward.

Strategies for life can be better put into one word; philosophy.

I turned to that.

I started out as the freshman guy who takes one philosophy class and thinks they know everything but shortly after the high of newfound knowledge comes the crushing realization that you know nothing about life strategies that are universal to all.

Nothing.

You only know one thing.

Your philosophy works for you.

And that is something often overlooked in our world where honest dialogue has been replaced with entertainment style debate. People tend to forget that there are actually three sides to the truth:

There’s your version, there’s my version, and then there’s the truth.

I must remind you that despite every impulse to believe it; you are not god.

You are not the moral arbiter, you are not the source of all wisdom, you are not a democrat, you are not a conservative, you are not anything other than another human being in this great big mysterious world.

You are not the only pebble on this beach.

And this realization will depress even the most arrogant and self-centered of minds.

You are not the only pebble on this beach.

You could one day become the biggest pebble there is.

But you will never be the only pebble on the beach.

If this is the case then one day you might come to an even more sinister thought that is provoked from simply watching a box office hit movie.

“If my life is so minuscule then why should I even bother to live”

It is a thought of suicide.

It is a thought that your life has become so meaningless that it won’t matter if you’re gone.

It is the scariest thought of all.

It is an emotionally understandable thought that people (especially adults) around you will say is unfounded and ridiculous to have and that you have no right to be feeling this way. They’ll probably even say the three words that in themselves don’t mean anything:

Life is good.

What these people fail to understand is that right now you are in a state where despite all logic- your brain is your own worst enemy. It convinces you that these people are right and that your true emotions are not valid.

They tell you to “just be happy”

But they don’t tell you how.

They tell you that life is meaningful

But they don’t tell you why.

I’m not saying I’m right but this is what I have found:

The pursuit of truth involves a lot of pain.

A lot.

Because when you start thinking of everything on a macro scale you have a burning desire in your stomach to change the world.

A world that you now realize is in desperate need of help.

But again, you realize something:

You are just one mechanic working on a completely broken engine. 

The odds to fix this engine by yourself are NOT in your favor.

You remember that you are not the only pebble on the beach.

Despite feeling like a pebble that has been tossed around out of violent waves and spit out into your own private corner on the very end of the beach you fail to realize that there are millions of pebbles right next to you.

You just can’t see them on the surface level.

To think about life solely on a macro level is bound to lead to insanity. We have all heard the cliché “Rome wasn’t built in a day” ad nauseum.

This cliché is true.

But it only took a day to start.

It only takes a day to start getting up at 11:55am instead of 12pm. It only takes a day to do one push-up instead of zero. It only takes one day to replace a small portion of your beloved French fries for a little portion of vegetables. Despite my hatred for clichés- it only takes one day to make your bed.

These minuscule changes show no tangible results after one day.

You will not wake up motivated to attack the day.

You will not be able to do twenty pushups.

You will not prefer vegetables and real food to grease.

But you will have made your bed.

You will have a sense that you accomplished something today. It might not be worthy of a post on social media for all 1000+ of your “friends” to see but you will know that you woke up and did something.

No matter what else happens that day:

You made your bed.

Feel free to scoff at the notion that such a minuscule action can have any impact but if you do so I ask that you question your alternative:

Do nothing.

There’s a saying wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein that says “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

Continue to do nothing if you wish but I’ll tell you that I have tried that before.

Nothing changed; and insanity started to creep in.

If you decide to change your life the road will not be easy.

Your burning desire to be better might compel you to strive for immediate change.

I ask that you keep in mind that attempting to do so is like trying to drive a Ferrari through winding hills up a steep mountain where there are no guardrails.

Doing this means just one moment of inattention will send you right back off the cliff.

I have found that there is only one way to combat the instinct for rapid overnight change and to instead start seeing real tangible results:

Drive slowly.

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NNNN Podcast Episode #4

Pretty interesting podcast this week (if I do say so myself) featuring:

-Keeping it real

-Super Bowl recap

-The GOAT (Lavar Ball)

-UMass #TicketGate (not really though)

-Sleep struggles

-And final thoughts  {you won’t believe what was said! (unless you do) }

Enjoy and lets have ourselves a weekend:

NNNN