How to Not Graduate College as a Misanthropist

May 1, 2014 12:00 pm6,235 comments
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons - University of Exeter

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons – University of Exeter

I can’t lie, for most of the last year, I’ve hated school. That’s probably not an uncommon sentiment, especially at this time of year with stress from finals at a peak. But I’m not talking about the hate that subsides once the hard assignments are over. I mean hate as in I was considering dropping out as a more viable option to finishing my thesis and sticking around till May.

It’s not that my grades were bad, or that the work was too hard. I had just reached the point of feeling like school was prohibiting me from doing what I wanted in life rather than preparing me for it. I felt resentful about each assignment that detracted from my time to pursue career goals, and I hated being around other students who seemed to be accomplishing whatever they wanted. The only thing keeping me around was being just a few more months from graduating, and the feeling of failure I’d have of dropping out after investing so much time and over $35,000 a year at Arcadia.

Now May is here. I stuck around, and I haven’t hated every second of school along the way. In fact my perspective has changed a lot in the last few months from when the school year began. I’m still relieved I get to leave within the next month, but at the same time I’m kind of sad to go. This last semester really made me look at Arcadia in a new way, and now I feel disappointed that I didn’t take advantage of more opportunities while I had time. I’m glad I got to enjoy the last few months, but I’m sure some people feel like I did before, and just regard school as a chore, and other people as a nuisance. So I thought I’d share what I did that changed my outlook for others whose time is counting down, and might be heading towards graduation full of bitterness and hating everyone.

 

1. Interact with other students

This one seems like it should be simple and obvious, but it’s really not. Many of us generalize what we’re unfamiliar with because we’re too afraid to admit that we’re ignorant about something. For a lot of the year I’d see and hear other students accomplishing things and it would just make me angry because I’d rationalize how that person has never had to struggle with anything, or why what they did didn’t even require much talent. I’d brush off dealing with other people, then sit in my room and concoct reasons on why they were the ones with the problem. But you can tell you’re not being fair to someone else when your anger even starts extending to how someone dresses, or the stupid way they talk.

If you actually try speaking to people, it’s pretty difficult to stay angry. You’ll learn how that person you thought had it so easy is balancing their school life with a parent with cancer, or living on food stamps, or a multitude of other problems. You don’t get to know what someone is like by glaring at them from across the room. Have a conversation with that person who irritates you and you’ll find out some pretty shocking stuff. Like that they’re actually a decent human being. Maybe you’ll find out they’re someone you’d like to be friends with too.

2. Give the dorky activities a chance

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always had an aversion to school clubs. I guess the dichotomy of the place I learn at also being a place to have fun just had trouble resolving for me. But in my last semester I finally got dragged to a few different club meetings and saw that they actually can be fun. The activities aren’t always going to be great, but anything can be enjoyable with people you like. You’re bound to run into at least one or two people you already know there, plus the club members will be happy to see a new face and will really try to make you feel welcome.

You can’t keep saying there’s nothing to do on campus if you ignore anything that isn’t immediately appealing. Try new things while you can. If it’s not for you then all you’ve lost is another night of being by yourself. Getting more involved in a few activities in my last semester really broadened the number of students I know and has helped me meet a few people who I think I’ll still be friends with after school is over. The people and activities are all there, but they’re not going to come to you. Try something different and give one of the clubs a shot.

3. Communicate with professors

It’s not just other students that you can wind up hating. Sometimes it feels like professors are just the enemy designed to make your life more difficult. Student intel suggests, however, that professors might not only be human, but maybe even nice and understanding. I’m sure everyone has developed some roundabout techniques to deal with assignment deadlines and page limits, but you’re probably just placing more undue stress on yourself by hoping you don’t get found out. Professors are usually understanding of outside circumstances delaying your work sometimes and will grant you an extension if you need it. I know from experience that pride can get in the way of admitting you need more time, but you can’t blame your professors if you’re placing that burden on yourself. Be honest about the problems you’re having and maybe you’ll even be able to work together on a way of handling your assignment that makes it work a lot better for you.

4. Take a break from social media

When I’m feeling bad about life the last thing I want is to hear how awesome things are for everyone else. Yet the Internet, social media in particular, are often the go-to distraction for when we’re feeling bored or unhappy. The thing is, though, doing that may only be exacerbating the problem.

“[Social media] can cause things like depression and anxiety, probably on a larger scale than any drug has ever caused in America,” says psychiatrist Dr. Michael Yasinski in the ABC article “Can too much exposure to social media lead to anxiety and depression?” He goes on to say, “Now your sense of self is potentially all based on whether or not you feel like you are as good as everyone else out there.”

I know this from personal experience. If you’re stuck inside all day struggling with a paper, scrolling past hundreds of smiling people having fun, traveling the world, and talking about how much they love life isn’t going to make you feel very good in comparison. In fact, I’ve found it’s a good way to make you hate everyone you know. Contrary to the name, there isn’t a whole lot of socializing involved in social media. If you really want to take your mind off your problems by spending time with your friends, then try the next step in this list. But if it’s 1 a.m. and you’re not sleeping until your paper is done, I’d recommend shutting down social media accounts during that kind of high stress period so you’re not tempted with a distraction that will leave you feeling worse.

5. Stop bottling up the anger

No, I’m not saying go around venting anger and being mean to everyone. I’m saying share your problems. Yeah, it’s annoying to keep hearing people complaining about how many assignments they have, but in school people will understand. It’s a pretty low form of conversation, but sometimes commiserating about how little time you have for fun is enough to keep you going through the next block of work. It’s not good to be the person who complains nonstop, but it’s also bad to keep everything inside and pretend everything is okay. If things are rough, allow yourself to indulge in a little self-pity to remind yourself people know how you feel. It can also put life into perspective by realizing everyone has it hard, and some have it far worse than you do. As the saying goes, misery loves company.

 

I’m not saying doing all of these things will make your academic life easy, or perfect. But it can make going to school a lot more bearable and even enjoyable at times. There’s going to be stress no matter what, especially during senior year, but you can minimize it. I’ve tried the approach of going to school, doing my work and being distant from everything else on campus. It’s not fun. School doesn’t have to be inherently unenjoyable, though. If you begin to hate college life while all around you there are people making friends and having fun, the problem probably lies with how you’re handling everything. Nothing will change by you continuing to do the same old thing, so try something new. It might be the difference between graduating and never looking back, and looking back with fond memories.

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