When I got to college I had the idea that I would only have time to study and go to class, that even introductory courses would require a level of investment I never could have fathomed in high school. This impression might have come from my parents or several alarming orientation sessions, but in the way that mistaken impressions often do, it fulfilled itself.
My freshman and sophomore years, I only made time to go to class and the back to my dorm room to complete my homework as soon as it was assigned. I made checklists of material, and engaged in something like flagellation (not physically, only mentally, of course) if I didn’t manage to complete everything before my self-appointed bedtime of 11:30 p.m.
Needless to say, I didn’t have many friends. I also became a much less interesting person than I ever was in high school. In college, of course, the opposite should be happening — one should be gaining new interests, meeting unorthodox people, getting out in the world and taking pretty Instagram pictures of it.
My grades were good, and I got some small satisfaction in that. I was also realizing, however, that I was becoming something of an automaton. I hadn’t listened to any new music since I started college, I hadn’t been to any museums or read a novel, I hadn’t even watched Netflix.
In those terrible icebreaker games that seem to comprise the majority of freshman year, I could recite everything I used to enjoy (basketball, playing with my dog, learning trivia about obscure French film directors from the 1950s), but nothing that I actually did anymore. I was that thing I’d always feared the most — boring.
I got a little better when I studied abroad sophomore year and actually made some friends my junior year, but even now, as a senior, I just wish I had more interests that aren’t school. I still don’t do much now besides homework and the Lariat, and I wonder what kind of person will emerge out of the gauntlet of these four years. Will I only be able to think in terms of the regimented schedules and tasks I’ve set for myself? Will I sink into a pool of boneless mush before the divine altar of Netflix? Will I — God forbid — miss my homework?
College is about cultivating oneself. School is part of that, of course, particularly in those rare enjoyable majors. But school isn’t everything. I advise those who are at the beginning or middle or even end of this weird soul-forming time to be interesting, even if it’s just to yourself. I wish that I’d blocked out some time in my schedule for that, somewhere along the line.
Helena Hunt is a senior University Scholars major from Sonoita, Ariz. She is the Arts & Life editor for the Lariat.