The secret.

Mae and I figured out the secret to college life at Rose today.

Everything that happens freshman year–the residence hall floor activities, the supporting SA’s, the kind RA, the unity, and temporary friendships that form–it’s all to convince us that we can do it. That we can survive and tackle Rose. That we have a trustworthy network of friends and administrators just waiting to help us if we stumble.

That’s the only thing that gets some of us through sophomore year. We’ll drive ourselves into the ground with the underlying beliefs that 1) it will be worth it in the end, and 2) that we can have something like freshman year again if we work hard enough to get the un-fun things done.

That’s bullshit. It doesn’t come back, and it won’t. Whether it’s worth is up for debate, too.

The same thing seems to happen to those in sororities (and AXE) at Rose as a layer on top of the above. You join a sorority, have a happy gift-giving time for a while, then find yourself embroiled in politics and competitiveness to recruit more members. I remember the disappointment of some of my sorority-joining friends freshman year when this came to light. (This is only a matter of interest due to an opinions piece I wrote for the newspaper this week.)

Another illusion we seem to have: that there’s really an ebb and flow to this place. So many times I’ve heard someone (including myself) fretting about the tests of third week (or 6th, or 9th) and how busy and sucky that week would be.

But what about when you were sucker-punched with work the first week of the term because you thought your schedule was going to be a little more relaxing? Then you spent the second week recovering your balance and struggling to complete everything. Then there were third week tests. Then there was the increased stress for weeks 4 and 5 as you worked harder on little things to keep (or raise) your average. Then more tests. Then tenth week, when you’re fucking exhausted and there’s just one more due date and presentation to do and finals to think about.

There is no 9th week project crunch that wasn’t there for weeks 2, 4, and 6 for each mini-project, milestone, lab, or essay you had due. It’s all the fucking same, and it doesn’t get better.

It is unlikely that you will ever find yourself at a point where there is no additional schoolwork to do. If it’s not any of those above-mentioned assignments with due dates, it’s knocking the dust off that textbook you haven’t cracked since your earnest attempt first week to keep on the reading so that you can maybe understand the theory behind the shit you just turned in and called a lab report.

When I read things like A.’s “Halt failed: infinite recursion background process loop running“, I can say nothing other than, “Yup.” When another friend of mine suffers a nervous breakdown and finds herself reevaluating her own stamina limits, I remember my conscious decisions this summer about what I would take on this year and to what level I would involve myself in activities. I may be only a mediocre editor of the campus newspaper, but I sleep and eat and have fewer stomach (and emotional) problems than I did last year. Sounds like a good trade-off to me.

Hmm. I stopped outlining my NaNoWriMo novella to write this, and now I’m sleepy. Happy birthday to me, and let’s all hope I’m a little less bitter in the morning.

  • Yeah, I wish I was better at re-evaluating my limits. I have to say though, the friends are still there, still reminding me why I love Rose, even when I hate the work. And Tridelta and AXE are still there too, and even though there was disillusionment right after joining both, I just had to find the reason to *stay* in the organization. Huh. I guess that’s the way it was for me with Rose too, coming here and being surrounded by *shudder* conservative Christians… I realized lots of things, but that would take too long to put down here, so I’ll just try to look you up more often and actually keep in touch with you, so that we can have more fun chats.

  • Lissa

    “I just had to find the reason to *stay* in the organization.”–But that statement conflicts with what you told me on Thursday…

  • I never really bought into the freshman year stuff. It was all too staged. That’s why I never rushed. They seemed more concerned with growing the sororities than helping the freshmen ‘find their fit.’ All the friendships I’ve made have come about through the various RPG groups I’ve been in, which came about through my Catapult acquaintenances. My friendship with WO is a good example of that. But most of the friendships I’ve made have endured. Hell, I’m even still friends with Guy, despite everything. Sometimes I think that my friendships here at Rose are the only things that keep me here. I could drop out tomorrow and pursue an economics degree and probably still be happy. I’d definitely have a better GPA and a lot less stress. But I’d miss people and I’d miss Rose. I love Rose, but I hate it. It destroys me, but I’m a better, stronger person now than I was when I graduated high school. Every couple of weeks I think about seeking counseling, but then I whine over LJ and someone gives me a hug. Then I’m good to go for another couple of weeks. I’ll make it through this. It won’t be pretty, but I’ll do it. Hmm, I think I’ll double post this to my LJ. Thanks for the inspiration, Lissa. And good luck with NaNoWriMo.

  • A

    Your post is heartening. At first glance I can never figure out why I’m so short on time – we’ve all done the math and know we’ve got metric tonnes of it. Now I realize that there’s nothing to do but resign myself to the drudgery set in front of me by the system. I couldn’t bring myself to that before.

    Part of what crushes our spirits here is that school is not like work – it does not end when we get home. No place to run, no refugue, no personal days. Weekends aren’t free, and vacations are just deadline extenders.

    Too bad most of us have lives to deal with on top of that, and the constant strain of maintaining school and life is draining on our reserves. Imani’s right – it would be easier to go to another school, then you’d just be working a job.

    I am not convinced the real world’s not easy. Seems like the daily grind would be nice – if you get a job you like, which leads back to why we’re angsting here at Rose.

  • Lissa

    I’ll admit that I don’t see how this post is either inspirational or heartening, but, hey, I can roll with that idea.

    I don’t think it would be easier to go to another school. School (and work, for that matter), are always as time-intensive as we make it. We can go to another school, but since it will be easier, we’ll take more classes and involve ourselves with more activities until… lo and behold, we find ourselves tired and stressed out. I just got an email from a friend at UNC (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) who is doing exactly that.

    This may be similar to the idea that there’s no such thing as time management–you will always fill up available time with stuff.

    This may be another way in which Rose students delude themselves. Rose, in and of itself, isn’t any more time intensive than any other school. We just choose to take on the quantity of things we do. I mean, honestly, do we expect Quantum Mechanics (or insert other high-level class) to be easier at a state school just because that school also has Basketweaving?? We are deluding ourselves as to how special we are. Really.

    As far as the daily grind being nice… A., weren’t you just complaining about the formulaic boringness of the radio show? 🙂 Sounds like a grind to me, and it seems like you aren’t enjoying it.

  • A

    Ah, you got me. I shouldn’t call it a grind; I want simplicity with time to pursue my own goals – that would not lose my interest over time. That can’t happen, but it is what I wish for, and is the reason I go to school – my goal is to learn interesting things. Seems like I lost some interest along the way. The lack of motivation that results makes everything harder. The trick is regaining that passion. Your post is heartening since I felt/feel just like that, and it reminded me of the passion I lost.

    Also, another school would likely have lower expectations due to a lower common denonminator, and I think that’s the way the school becomes easier. You would have the option to take it easy for a quarter if you wanted – without hosing your grades.

  • Lissa

    But we wouldn’t take it easy. That’s the very nature of (and problem with) folks like you and me. We could take an easy(ier) quarter at Rose. It’s possible to take a 12 or 14 credit term and still graduate on time without needing future overloads. We just don’t do it out of our bizarro need to push ourselves until we break (or find ourselves with no motivation left, which may be the same thing) because we want to learn so many interesting new things.

    Since when have the school’s expectations been our own? I am not driven by Rose, just like I’ve never been driven by my parents or teachers.

  • Jenny

    freshman year didn’t convince me that i could survive, that i could do it. it made me wonder if i could. and then when i did, it was because i didn’t care as much about the end result. i had considerably less, if any, interest in overacheiving. i still like to do well and work hard to do well, but i am not devastated if i don’t. i set more reasonable goals, but i don’t do certain things unless i have to (like my spanish hw). i can’t say i’m necessarily happier, but i am less stressed. i can see the big picture a little better (for school at least – don’t hold me to that in others areas of my life). still, i can’t decide: did freshman year break me or did it fix me?

  • Lissa

    Jenny–that may be about the point that I’ve just reached. And you’re right: I’m not sure if I’m fixed or broken, either.

    Maybe being at Rose also causes us to mature a little slower. *shrug*

  • Yeah, I understand that what I said was inconsistent with what I had said to you on Thursday. Unfortunately, depending on my mood, I am more or less positive about my sorority and why I stay in it. Sometimes those reasons are enough, and sometimes all I want to do is vent, then go find a sister and remind myself how awesome some of them are. Yes, some. In spite of some things people say about “buying friends” by being in a sorority, most of my good friends are outside of mine. I like it that way, don’t ask me why, I’m not really sure myself. Umm… yeah. I could explain more, but I have thermo to do. 😛

  • I suppose my disillusionment came when the dean threatened to send me home freshmen year because I’d “scared the BSB3 girls.” The whole “we’re in this together” facade they try to sell never went over well with me, but for others…I think that’s all they have holding them up here. To each his/her own, I suppose.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some genuinely caring people; but on the grand scale, most everyone is so busy with school work here that they haven’t the time to passionately devote themselves to anything or anyone else–one of a few important points they tend to neglect when they hype us all up with club banners and event advertisements.

  • K

    Very well written piece write there. I think you did a nice job of summarizing the point of freshman year. They could make it a lot harder and introduce more upper level concepts, but instead let us build up that support structure. We fall in love with this place when we start out freshman year, but then begin to crumble.

    But this isn’t a bad thing at all. Really to push yourself through this is a good thing. It will teach you how to be responsible and organized enough when you get out and see that others are just plain lazy. I am glad that Rose is the way it is.

  • Guy

    This is one of the best written articles I have ever read about college, it is all too true. It’s nice to hear a perspective from someone that actually has a challenging college curriculum instead of the usual “omg guyz college is so awesome” stuff most students write. Keep up the good work.