Senior(citizen)itis

There’s a theory I learned about in Psych 101 last semester-- yes I took Psych 101 as a senior in a pool of 352 freshmen who feverishly scribed notes starting from the first slide of the semester that defined “psychology” -- that explains why older adults are the happiest. For most of our lives we fill our days with tasks that may not be the most pleasant in the present-- saving money, flossing (some of us), allowing ourselves to be persuaded that salad greens belong in smoothies-- in the hopes of setting ourselves up later in life. Senior citizens, on the other hand, aren’t thinking 20, 30, 40 years down the line. Because of this seemingly dark fact, their reward mindset shifts from long term pay-off to instant gratification.  Symptoms of such a shift take form in the shrinking of social circles to include only those most important and enjoyable, a more carefree and frivolous view on money that has long been saved up, and a focus on the activities that make one happiest. Looking around Love Auditorium at the sea of eighteen year olds eager to learn about Pavlov’s dogs and the Stanford Prison Experiment, for the first time I realized that this mindset applies to seniors in college as well.  The theory checks out anyway- we have limited time left where we are and therefore seek to optimize how we spend it.  Far gone are the days of shouting my name once, twice, three times over the pulsating cow bell of Taxi into the ear of some uninterested inebriated stranger with one rum and Coke in his hand and another down the front of his shirt. So too are the squeally post-winter break reunions with girls I don’t actually talk to and definitely don’t need a play-by-play of Duke in Madrid from.  Rather, my breakfast, lunch, dinner and drunk eating plans revolve around a small universe of humans whom I care about a little too deeply, and who I should probably stop talking to right now if I have any hope of being emotionally stable come graduation in May.

The big spender mindset seems to hold as well. The only difference is that once my checking account hits zero post Mardi Gras, Punta Cana, Senior Wine Nights, Beach Week and Grad trip I’ll keep on existing, this time in the real world. And finally we have the lack of interest in anything shy of instant gratification. I’m sorry to all of the 4th graders at the Emily K Center, but I have found it increasingly difficult to motivate myself on a Friday afternoon at 4:30 to come do arts and crafts, but I will try to be better. And to all of the organizations that I adamantly cared about and attended meetings for throughout the years, it’s been a really nice run... but the idea of coming to Perkins at 9 pm on a Tuesday night no longer tickles my fancy the way it once did. And finally a word to my homework which no longer takes priority over food, sleep, oxygen, and sanity. I am sorry to say that I can no longer attend to you past the hours of 5pm and somehow I am still afloat and don’t foresee myself failing out of Duke in the coming months.  And so we seniors, too, look onward into the dark unknown. Okay, maybe a little less dark, but for those of us who didn’t secure a job in August which locked us into two years of Duke 2.0 featuring desk-dinners and an even more pretentious cohort, there is definitely a healthy helping of unknown out there.  Am I equating graduating to dying? Maybe? Is that too extreme? Perhaps. RIP college.