There comes a point in the life of every college student when the ability to give a damn runs dry. She starts to focus on the bare essentials of getting by, counting the days until graduation. She spends more time planning her commencement party than writing her papers. She may or may not realize that she is suffering from a terrible disease, one that afflicts millions of Americans every spring.
We are speaking of senioritis, of course.
You may have heard of senioritis before. You may even think you’re immune because you had a juvenile case of it in high school. I never had it as a teenager; I contracted severe dropout syndrome in my junior year. But I want to warn you that no matter what, you are not immune. Senioritis can strike anyone at any time, once the victim realizes the end is within view.
Symptoms may be very mild at first, helping the virus to avoid detection. The victim might sleep in once or twice, “by accident.” He may find himself blowing off an afternoon class to get fro-yo, tweeting that he just had to “live a little.” But soon enough she’s calculating what she can get away with, doing the meticulous math on what it will take to get a B minus. By then, it’s too late. Senioritis has reached its final stage. After that point, every day will seem like a struggle. Every minor academic task will look completely pointless, and the victim might just try to walk into finals without studying at all, a half-assed final paper in hand. Don’t let this happen to you.
There is no cure for senioritis, but there is treatment. My doctor has me on the circus animal program. It was engineered after the pattern of rewarding captive wildlife for completing tasks that make no sense to them; the lion jumps through a flaming hoop and wins a pork chop. A seal honks a horn with its nose and the trainer gives it a tasty fish. Unfortunately, with senioritis, the victim must also be the ringmaster, and the ringmaster must be unforgiving to get the tricks the crowd wants to see.
For example: If I write my daily short assignment, I earn a hot shower. If I finish a rough draft of five pages or more, I get a Diet Coke, no matter what time it is. If I don’t go to class, I don’t get to have Chipotle. If I don’t do the reading, I’m not allowed to call my bff for a nice long chat. I have to be ruthless about these rules, or my graduation is going to become an even emptier gesture than walking across a stage in a polyester muumuu while someone mispronounces my name and someone else hands me a fake diploma. I won’t actually graduate. So to stem the tide of my illness, I’m on circus slave animal lockdown.
If you’re suffering from senioritis, you don’t have to be ashamed. We’ve all heard the call of the spontaneous beach day or been sorely tempted to start scrolling and double-tapping in class. We’ve all looked the abyss of these last few weeks in the eye and seen the taunting nothingness that lies there. (Ladies and gentlemen of the class of two thousand and nada, you should be very proud of your nada here at the University of Nada. Fiat nada.) Reach out to your friends, and tell them you need help. Tell them to boot you off Facebook, out of bed and off the glade when it’s time to go to class. Ask them to spoil your plans and steal your flip-flops. You have all summer — hell, you have the rest of your life to screw around.
You have 20 more days in which to be a UC Berkeley senior. Don’t just finish — knock this out with class and style.
Fellow sufferers of senioritis, I better see you at commencement.
Contact Meg Elison at [email protected].