“I drank three energy drinks last night man, I had a paper to finish, and two tests to study for.”
“Hey, look at this funny meme about how college makes me feel dead inside! Isn’t it great?”
“Gotta spend about half a grand on my college textbooks… good thing I’ve got two jobs to help pay for it — too bad I’m a full-time student, though. I hardly have any free time.”
“Can class be over yet? I feel like my brain is melting. I just want to go home. I just want to be done. I wish I was anywhere but here.”
All of the quotes are a variety of things I’ve heard from college students and I can’t help but take a moment to consider what the students, my peers, are actually saying.
First off, we signed up for this.
We are in college, dropping thousands upon thousands of dollars, because we decided we want to better ourselves – we want a brighter future. We’re doing this in hopes that we’ll ‘make a difference’, that we’ll seem to ‘rise up’ above the masses, being brought to some superficial sense of purpose and meaning through all our hard work.
So why do so many of us hate it? Now, I know plenty of us have good days. Being in college has opened me up to a lot of new ideas, and has indeed helped me become a more well-rounded person, but, is this ‘well-roundedness’ truly voluntary? Are all these ideas, theories, and philosophies that are being shoved down my throat more important than my own personal passions? Is being educated and intelligent all about agreeing to what our society states is morally right or true with little room for question?
Is it really right to be in a classroom full of students who doubt their own abilities, causing most questions asked to be met with silence? Is it really right for students to have to force themselves to pull all-nighters to study for a test, not because they procrastinated, but because they had to work the night before, had a family dinner to go through, a car to fix, because they engaged in something they actually enjoy?
Why do we glorify our own exhaustion? Why do we laugh about our crippling anxiety we may feel for a test coming up, or shrug our shoulders when we know ‘we won’t amount to much anyway.’
And why, for even the students who overachieve, do we never feel good enough?
Smart enough? Why does every word that come out of a professor’s mouth week three into a semester feel mind numbing and pointless? Why does almost every student I talk to tell me about how they’re just ready to be “done” with the work they’re doing. The work that is meant to make them more intelligent, well-rounded, open-minded people. The work they signed up for – why is it so often described as draining, monotonous, time-consuming, and unfulfilling. Why is it okay that we seem to forget everything we learned the day after the semester ends, because we were so ready to be rid of all the incessant information being pumped into our brains, by force.
How is that okay?
And why the fuck do we put up with it?
I know I may be a little bias in this matter, and again, there are many upsides to college and higher education, but I’m sick and tired of hearing my fellow peers talk about how exhausted they are, how worthless they feel (when they’re wildly talented), how hopeless they feel about achieving anything, how hard the inescapable debt will be after being freed from college, and how they have no idea what they’re doing with their lives.
Hm – You want to know why we don’t know what we want to do with our lives, educators?
Because we haven’t had a moment to even discover who we are as you drown us in standardized tests, highly structured and uninspired assignments, and arbitrary rules ‘vital’ for success in our adult lives.
But who are we even?
We aren’t fruits of the next generation. We are well-oiled machines, wired and locked in boxes of constancy, and rotten with a need for perfection. You try to code us, tame us, and in the end, all of our efforts feel futile, as you force as to care about things we never asked to care about. And then, you scold us when we are not good enough, all while we’re still trying to find ourselves as you’re telling us who we need to be, or what we ought to be doing with our lives.
Now, I’m not saying to burn down all colleges and places of higher education, nor am I trying to imply that all of us feel that college can be more stifling than freeing.
This is a 4.0 GPA student talking here. One who dedicates large sums of her time trying to claw towards that image of perfection, all while working two jobs, managing clubs, a social life, and more. Which I know I’m not the only one like this (nor am I trying to brag, really, I’m not that special), considering I have plenty of friends who also achieve highly in school. And many of them enjoy it, but as I sit here right now, typing out this post, I am stricken with guilt.
Being in college has taught me a few things.
One being that the world is working against you, meaning you have to work as hard as possible to fight against the competition of others, you have to spend even more time saving puppies from fires, and memorizing each fact offered to you down to the last number, the last letter (if we even have enough mental energy to remember the facts we read in the first place, that is). You do realize the more you drill us about what is right to do, the less we want to do it, right? You realize that you’re pulling us on this chain of supposed “righteousness” without even giving us a chance to question it? And even when we do have this pseudo-sense of freedom, we’re always pulled back to the same place you wanted us to be anyway?
Regardless of how many times my college environment has tried to “enforce” and “encourage” my own personal interests, my passions often remain uninspired and unmotivated.
Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I should being doing more. Studying more, being more involved, volunteering more, because by God how in the world am I going to get a job with, *gasp*, only three instances of volunteer work? What am I? A selfish, greedy swine, wastefully sucking on the breast of personal self-discovery and growth? How dare I throw away my time with my actual interests? How dare I apply my few morsels of inspiration into something I care about rather than my school work, rather than my ‘future’.
With this, I laugh in the face of the education system who has me trained. Who has us all trained. I laugh even though I still have a collar around my neck, even though I still sit when they tell me to, a smile on my face when they say I’m a “good girl.” But in the end, I am still obedient, regardless of my incessant desire to be free, to fall in love with myself again, to fall in love with the future I have written for my passions.
I am exhausted, high-strung, uptight, foolish in nature, for I know these words are fueled with a cynicism that blinds me to a lot of the good things college has provided for me.
But then I take a step back, and realize I am not blind, as I watch the system suck out the creative energy and life from all my peers who stand around me… diseased with anxiety, self-doubt, and confusion, working day in, day out with little time or energy to focus on what matters to them.
Maybe I’m just another millennial, complaining about the “system” that has been written in our society for decades, all while I present this sort of I’m different! Look at me, and my fancy words! demeanour.
But nothing proves my point more than my peers alongside me, who are shoved inside these boxes of mandatory constancy that sap that life out of their eyes. If you’re thinking well, don’t go to college then, then you’ve totally missed the point – our society has made college almost completely necessary to find success later in life (now there are loopholes, and people who can and do get by without a full education, which is wonderful, but not very common), giving us little to no option to fight back against the system – because what are we if we aren’t educated intellectuals? What are we if we aren’t professionals, birthed and raised within the education system? Unfortunately, to our society, and future employers, not much.
So here, I’m writing a formal apology to our system for using the small bout of energy I have left to engage in my passion.
I’m sorry that even though I’m house-broken by you, I still have the will to write…
(Even though I still have a test I should be studying for. Whoops.)
I hope that all of you, whether you’re wired by college, or even work, that you have the ability to still engage in what matters to you, be it writing, art, music, singing, research, you name it.
Please still be you – don’t let our societal structure strip that away.
Can you relate to these feelings as student (whether you’re in college, high school, you name it)? Or, do you find other parts of our society (be it work or something else) stifle you in a similar way? Leave a comment below and share if you can relate!
With everlasting encouragement,