If it were up to me, school would be optional centers of joyous learning where tears of happiness are spilt over intellectual conversations, stimulating reading and a lot of hugs.
Very little is up to me, sadly.
Instead, school has become, for many students including myself, a rectangular plot of land that holds clusters of concrete buildings. A maze of reading assignments, finals, due dates, responsibilities and chores through which students desperately run, pursuing the image of success, good grades and assurance that all the cash you throw out per class isn’t going to waste.
Above all of that floats a collective thought bubble stemming from every single student walking on campus in which the same thought is inscribed: “I cannot wait until this is over.”
“This.” This weekend, this month, this summer session, this hardship, this break up, this night, this assignment, this year, this season in my life.
For me, I’m looking forward to the weekend. By the time this is published, I’ll be joyously liberated from summer school, free to scream, “Deuces, muddapuckas,” to the campus as I turn my back on it for a temporary break — free to read whatever books I want, free to go swimming, free to paint my nails pale yellow, sip coffee and go hiking. Oh joy, my fellow session A students. As for the incoming session C and D students, tough luck. Enjoy the stark white classroom lights while I get gloriously tan.
All I have to do is hold out till this Saturday when I can smile again. Life will resume, right? I have all my summer plans lined up: the beach, rollerblading in parks, going to China and Cambodia, barbeques and reunions, all the while instagraming every trivial second of it. Numb your emotions, Michelle. Just a few more days. Close your eyes and charge through it. This too shall pass.
Problem is, when one difficulty ends, another is bound to come up. I realized this as I was pep-talking my way through a recent paper.
Sure, this paper will be finished, but sooner or later, I will be assigned another one, and another one. Then papers will turn into projects at work, work turns into familial issues and financial problems. It’s never-ending.
Surely, as UC Berkeley students, many of you feel the same. There must have been some sort of sacrifice you made in high school to get here. You consoled yourself during dreary summers in SAT classes and through writing papers for AP classes by saying, “It’s okay. This sacrifice is worth it. I just have to get through junior year, and I’ll be going to a good college. Then I will be able to enjoy myself.”
Life sucks. That is, if you define it by the string of demanding events that ruin your steady stream of comfort, or if you expect life to be a plushy cushion of easiness and simplicity and view difficult things as ripples in your perfect pond.
Sitting at my desk, consumed by this thought and becoming thoroughly less motivated to finish my paper, I found myself horrified that my life would simply be full of “I can’t wait until … ” moments. If you count up all the minutes that I wanted to fast-forward through, and compare it to the number of minutes I spent enjoying my time, the ratio turns out to be rather depressing. I spend so much of my time wishing my time were over. Sounds morbid, right?
I cannot prevent all hardships in life. However, I can change the mindset that I approach it with.
I remember junior year — the infamously hardest year of high school. I was taking AP classes, working a time-consuming job, taking on multiple leadership positions and dealing with the death of a family member. I was stretched to the breaking point, exhausted and just begging God and all of cosmos to fast-forward to college, where I could run away, hide and start all over again. Now that I’m here, however, I constantly get caught up in nostalgia, and I strangely want to go back to that year.
It was hard, yes, but there were joys that were coupled with it that I cannot gain in any other season of my life. There’s something about hardship that teaches you about peace; there’s something about tears that teach you about joy.
When I was going through that year, however, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see any potential or goodness in it. I couldn’t wait until high school would end. Ah, if I had but known how beautiful that year would look in retrospect, I could have appreciated it in the present tense. I could have saved my heart a lot of grief if I just knew how to enjoy all moments of life, even the worst ones.
I demand change — in myself, in you. Enjoy whatever season you’re in. The Book of Ecclesiastes claims that there is a season for everything. And whether you are religious or not, it’s true. Do not fight to live in a perpetual summer, but enjoy every moment of existence. Enjoy today simply because it’s today.