The author then and now. Photos provided by author
Content Warning: Mentions of mass shootings
So this is it.
Three years, 35 articles — each more unhinged than the last — and who knows how many copyediting shifts. I’m scared to do the math, but I’d wager that my time at The Daily Campus made up a good percentage of my time in college. With a few too many people to thank and an equal amount to say good riddance to here at UConn, mustering up the courage to write this a week before graduation was an interesting feat. But here I am, tired as always and ready to annoy at least one more person before I depart from Storrs.
When reflecting on my undergraduate experience, plenty of memories find their way in the foreground of my mind. One always sticks out though, and as bleak as it may be, I think I’ve finally pinpointed why it does and what I — and I suppose we — can learn from it. I had parked at East Campus, mentally preparing for both an exam and the inevitable parking ticket I would receive that day, and when I walked up the stairs to the right of Holcomb Hall, I noticed that the three flags on the Great Lawn were at half-mast. What struck me was not my failure to identify why the flags were lowered, but rather the number of reasons that came to mind. It froze me; the realization that any of the national catastrophes that crossed my mind may have been the culprit was terrifying.
I later learned they were lowered to memorialize the victims of a mass shooting that had taken place earlier that week. Which mass shooting, however, I do not recall. This is my point.
I don’t mean to be a downer, and I won’t be presenting any nausea-inducing statistics today; however, this serves as a testament to an eternal cliché and deeply overlooked reality: College is hard. Life is hard! Existing as a human being, let alone as a young person in a high-stress college environment, is no simple task. At any given point, the average college student is overwhelmed — not just with their own work and stresses, but the trauma of those nationwide and the weight of hearing bad news just about every day. I’d bet that the university could lower its flags for an entire semester and students who pass by, just as I did, would theorize a new reason to grieve each day.
So give yourself a break. Does this solve everything? Not by a long shot. But the benefits of prioritizing your mental health outweigh the significance of any paper or exam. Take it from me, a calm-all-the-time, easygoing senior who is the embodiment of Zen. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but from one chronically stressed person to another, it’s going to be okay.
I think that’s what college taught me, and what complaining about it through my column has as well. The burden of life is not alleviated once we graduate, nor does it ever leave us alone. I mentioned the amount of time I’ve spent at The Daily Campus earlier; I’ve spent a lot more time worrying — probably more than I actually spent working on the things I was worried about.
I realize this has become a letter to my past self, as well as the most pedantic way of saying “everything will be okay” — if this teaches you anything it’s to never give a philosophy major an online platform.
Here are the last two cents left in my piggy bank of college-related thoughts. Take it easy, especially on yourself and those around you. Seek out experiences that reduce stress and surround yourself with people who bring you the same relief. Stay informed, but to a healthy degree; constant news coverage can be exhausting. Treat your body and mind with respect, as well as those around you. Get involved with organizations like The Daily Campus — you can get paid to write articles like these. And most importantly, try not to let everything matter too much.
Yours in Storrs,