Threshold: thoughts on senior fall

This opinions piece doesn’t have much of a thesis. That is not to say that it doesn’t have a message. As I get older, I realize that life and its academic study cannot and should never be boiled down to neat argumentative statements. While I embody an array of identities, I nonetheless cannot live as simply an amalgamation of cultural notions, the likes of which can be studied through some sort of theoretical system or best understood through this or that school of thought. I suppose all of these thoughts are happening at the most opportune time. Going into this semester, I knew things were going to be challenging. I am a senior Honors major, applying to more than ten graduate programs, and studying for my Graduate Record Examination while also scrambling to find a way to pay for my graduate education. This summer, as I was mentally preparing myself for this adventure, I knew that it would all come together, and I am still confident that it will. Yet, I still find that I wake up certain mornings flustered and confused despite all of the work that there is to be done. I have so many obligations that I often don’t have time to just procrastinate or enjoy what few days of sunshine are left. As the winter approaches, I’ll lose much of my enthusiasm and drive. All of these thoughts crash about in my head as I walk to class with my headphones on, trying not to be there.

As I write this post, I glance down occasionally at the introduction to my Honors thesis. I keep telling people “it’s going to be over a hundred pages,” which is nearly 30 pages over the average maximum page count. I say this not because I am masochistic — although I am — but because I realize that my topic is perhaps too encompassing and my passion for it too engrossing to stop at the suggested 70-page limit. In my head, I want to do a good job, for my thesis has political and personal implications. I approach my work not simply as a student charged with an arbitrary task, but as someone legitimately invested in using the opportunity to write a paper on a topic as a way of “uncovering” the often understated or overlooked realities of the world. I know, it’s quite a grandiose and self-serving idea, to think that you are “discovering” something, but I cannot help it. I am quite zealous about writing, and in many ways it makes me deeply self-conscious. This is the third time I have printed this chapter of my thesis. With a red pen, I will meticulously go over my writing, pick and prod here and there until it makes sense, only to return with a black pen to question my first set of comments. I am wondering if this is actually productive or just another manifestation of this never-ending process of cutting myself down to size. Everyone has idiosyncrasies, but I find that mine reveal disturbing parts of my personality I am reticent or perhaps afraid to address.

I am already beginning to feel burnt out by senior year. At first, I went to parties and had fun, finding that time was moving too slowly for my tastes. The first few weeks of September moved at a slow crawl, but now time is beginning to accelerate at a pace with which I am not at all comfortable. I find that I am focusing on things that other seniors are not: grad school and fellowship applications, various jobs around campus, running student organizations and planning events. As I try to stay focused and induce tunnel vision, I find that I still glance around and feel quite lonely where I am. There aren’t many people I can talk to about this process without being lauded for “having my shit together,” although in my mind, I do not. I’ve found that I don’t have time to be anxious this semester, to take a day off from class to lie in my bed and watch TV as I would have when I was younger. I subconsciously avoid situations which would cause me distress, which is both lovely and bizarre at the same time. It is such a strange sentiment to think “Damn, I wish had less going on in my life,” but I find that that is what I think when I sit down every morning and write out my to-do list.

All the while, I feel less and less tolerant of Swarthmore every day. Although I didn’t necessarily want to go home during break—primarily because there’s just as little to do at home as there is to do here—I nonetheless found, after being back on campus for less than thirty seconds that I did not want to be here, either. My time here is quickly coming to an end, and while I am sad to leave my home of three years, I am more than ready to make that plunge into the mysteries and obscurities of “adult living.” My future remains completely undefined and ominous, but I still find that I am more accepting of whatever awaits me than the idea of staying here any longer.

This piece is just an assortment of thoughts which I have found the energy to boil down into words in the passing period between classes and meetings. It doesn’t have much of a purpose, but it does have a message. Despite the ways that we perceive the lives of others, using ourselves as the only decent metric by which we can arbitrarily determine the worth of others’ lives, we nonetheless live with the same degree of uncertainty and disquiet, which manifest in the actions we are conscripted to accomplish and the conditions which inhibit our ability to act. While I may promote the illusion of put-togetherness, I find myself, just like everyone else, wondering what’s the point of it all, flinging my eyes open to the sun every morning and wondering, “Why bother?” And although I wait momentarily for a response that will never come, I still get up and move about my day with the hope that one day it’ll be clear to me, even if my faith, with each passing day, starts to run dry.

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