Motivation left me the day my junior year started, five weeks ago. He left me one night during my sleep — jumped right out the window, just like Mr. Social and Mr. Self-Care did, because it’s the fastest escape from me. I miss him. I rarely see him. Every so often he returns and I get a fleeting glance of what life used to be. But, it’s always just a tease. He leaves again after a short visit, maybe five or 10 minutes, without a goodbye. And I am left to my own devices, which, without him, are nothing but my legs, on which I walk around in circles looking for the purpose in life.
Everyone in college talks about the sophomore slump. If you’re a sophomore, you might be experiencing that right now. And you should know that it only gets worse. But that’s why I am here, I guess. Could my life’s purpose be to inform you all of the woes and stressors that college brings as the years progress, speaking to you as if you do not know this already? Possibly. But I know you are all familiar with the emotionally tumultuous battleground of higher education because we’re all in the same boat. And that boat is heading straight to the kitchen to microwave the third burrito I’ve had today. There’s no more so you can’t have any. Sorry, time to get on your own boat.
The semester may be underway, but rest assured, it’s far from done — though we may be. As unfortunate as it is that Mr. Motivation left so early, his departure got me wondering about the point of school — what is keeping us here, what makes us want to receive an education and work hard to earn those good grades? And does every college student view success as a high GPA?
I would say for most of us, what motivates us is the thought of walking across the stage on graduation day, shaking a few people’s hands and holding that piece of paper that says we finished, we did it, we succeeded. *fist pump*
But different people find their motivation in different areas — we’re not all pursuing a degree for the same reason. There are young people who have chosen not to attend traditional college. Sometimes succeeding within the college realm is not for everyone.
For example, one of my best friends, Mckenzie, decided to step out of the university setting last year to pursue a career in photography, one that she is determined to build on her own. I asked her the other day what keeps her motivated and eager to succeed.
“When things hit you and life becomes more real, you realize, ‘I have to make a living off of this,’ she said. “When you love something, it does not feel like work. You drive yourself because you want to get better.”
Mckenzie also pointed out that, for her, she was not motivated in the traditional college environment. It took her leaving the university to find what really tickled her fancy. And then she felt driven and determined to succeed in her craft.
I also know a lot of other people on the other side of the spectrum, who are really motivated by their book studies because they know that, for them, that is what is necessary to reach their goals.
As for me, the only motivation I have left is to put SPF 30+ on my exposed skin and take my dog for long walks. Nothing else matters.
Motivation runs low sometimes. It’s a fact of life. In order to combat this, don’t lose sight of your goal, whatever that may be. Or maybe it is smaller goals interspersed along the way. And think about all that you’re learning throughout the process. It’s important to remind ourselves that, though it’s important to stay motivated, enjoying the journey is just as crucial.
Once you achieve whatever goal you have set for yourself, all the frustration, tears and bald spots from pulling out your hair will feel worth it. It’s a hard thing to keep in mind when the busy-work keeps piling up and you can’t find the strength to do anything but light a candle and listen to sad music. But fret not.
Remind yourself during the hard days that you are very lucky to be at such a fine institution, surrounded by professors and mentors who want to see you succeed. We are receiving an education that many people do not have access to. I oftentimes forget how privileged I am to be in school. For many throughout the world, education is seen as a luxury that is out of reach, yet here I am complaining about waking up at 8 a.m. to go to a 50 minute lecture.
When the future looks bleak, keep trudging, mighty warriors. Stay grounded — it’s all part of the process. The drudgery that has latched on will soon pass.
Collegian columnist Zara DeGroot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @zar_degroot.