College Life (???)

September 5, 2006

I’ve been thinking: why do I feel so socially uncomfortable at college? No, that’s too harsh. Why do I feel like I’m missing something at college? Why don’t I feel like I’ve gotten the full college experience yet?

The main reason has to do with a pre-conceived notion of what college should be like. I have a psychosocial image of how I should feel / act in college based on the viewing of media. Basically, I think that college life should be like it is on TV and in the movies.

There’s two errors with that  logic. First, it assumes that TV and cinema reflect actual college life. Second, and more importantly, it presupposes that I want to live the college life as presented by popular culture. And making these assumption without consideration leads to anxiety and discomfort.

So, I can easily answer the first question: no, real college, at least for a quiet, bookish chemistry major, is not like on TV. The parties are there, the drinking is there, the people are there, and the craziness is there. But these things don’t take up quite as large percentage of actual college life (at least for the serious student that doesn’t want to fail out). Here at Ursinus, all these happenings normally occur on Thursday’s and Saturday’s. That’s about 4.76 percent of the week/end days. A decent percentage, but not much. The rest of college actually consists of attending classes, eating, hanging out casually (not raucously and not at parties) with friends, participating in any clubs / sports, and doing other miscellaneous activities. It just happens that in movies/tv, the 5% of craziness gets disproportionate amount of viewing time.

And now to the second point: do I want to live pop culture’s version of the college life? I don’t know. I really could go either way. My first instinct is to say, “Hell no! I just want to hang out in my room, enjoy some good books, have fun at clubs and sports, and do really well at college.” Yeah, that sounds great. But isn’t it rationalizing? Rationalizing the fact that I haven’t really made the effort to make a life for myself here. That I haven’t gone out and made tons and tons of friends. That I’ve only more or less stayed well within my comfort zone.

Yes. And that leaves the other extreme, the option of just completely diving in, becoming a social butterfly, and making friends with every and any person I can find. Being the most popular kid on campus. The one that everyone passes and yells, “Yo, what’s up!” The class president, the prom king.

I know you’re all laughing as you read that. We all know I never have been that person. That doesn’t mean I can’t be that person, just that it’s completely incongruent with the way I’ve chosen to live my life so far. And at the moment, that also happens to not be the life I’d like to lead.

What’s the middle path then, the golden mean? I suppose it would be this: continue to do what you enjoy (reading, writing, learning, college-ing, etc.) while at the same time opening some opportunity doors just a crack. Let probability play in your favor. Put yourself out there doing things you enjoy (like joining more clubs, going out of the room more, etc) and just see what happens. No expectations. No requirements. And with this mix of comfort and challenge, you’ll find your peace.

And speaking of expectations: don’t expect for life to be like it is on TV or in the movies. You can go at your own pace. The tortoise and hare are both right. You just have to choose which one to identify with. And make sure you made the proper choice. You have to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Thanks for following in this trip down my rabbit hole. It’s been informative.


And there you have it. My solution

One Response to “College Life (???)”

  1. Bob McCullough said

    I enjoyed the trip down the rabbit hole. It’s quite an interesting point in one’s life, when you can (to a degree, anyway) decide to alter the chemistry of who you are, what you do, and how you approach the world. Figuring out that space between who you are and who you’d like to be, or who you want to try out being–that’s pretty heady stuff, but also an exciting proposition to consider. I look forward to future ruminations!

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