Sophomore Slump? Scratch That: The College Slump

If I think about the various spheres in life in a Venn diagram, striking the right balance would be to get as much overlap as possible, as many of my thoughts, feelings, and actions to sit in the space where the concentric circles overlap.

But at times, the Venn diagram seems disjointed, polarized, overloaded or under loaded. 

Depending on who you are, committing the vast majority of your intellectual, physical, and emotional resources into one sphere of the life (or in my metaphor-- one compartment in the Venn diagram) can yield fruitful results.  Aside from natural ability, the amount of time you put into any endeavor is generally related to the level of proficiency you can obtain. Extra time spent after practice working on skills, attending office hours or a help session at the OAR, skipping out on Saturday night shenanigans as an act of self-preservation.

But the question I find myself asking others and myself is, well, 

what do you you do when no matter how well you’ve prepared yourself, no matter how diligent, well-informed, and analytical you have been about a goal, you still come up short?

It’s like the classic metaphor of hitting a wall: still can’t find your groove on the field, the right amount of time to channel into your workload, along with the friends and significant others. Can’t throw yourself solely into the extracurriculars that fill the tank just as much or maybe even more than the “mandatory” school efforts.

These are the moments I realize life does not follow archetypes. There is no amount of rationalization that I can do to settle the dust storm of my frustrations, my powerlessness. The creeping doubt, the uneasy feeling that takes place in the pit of my stomach and in the tightness of my chest that seems to say, “Nice try. Your efforts have ALL been trivial.”

            Life is an infinite series of probabilities. Unmet expectations are the result of such narrow expectations we have assigned to an infinity of outcomes. It is easy to get caught up in such tunnel vision, narrow lenses where these exponential possibilities must fit into the handful of scenarios we would like to actualize. And thus it is easy for a dangerous cycle to arise, to feel dejected when we fail. To succumb to the improbability of success instead of the prospect of encountering a situation that makes us grow. Still, those feelings of dejection can come with good reason. When what we have deemed our best efforts fail, it’s easy to question our competency, our deeply ingrained habits can suddenly feel invalid.

Visits from the college slump are bound to happen. Disappointments, expectations hangovers as I like to call them, are an indicator you just gotta take a step back. Along the way, surround yourself with those connections that remind you of your innate goodness. If there’s anything to remedy the seemingly irreconcilable feelings of the slump, friends, professors, and family members are the closest thing to that magic elixir. Keep things light-hearted, tap in to your child-like sense of wonder, and stay experimenting until your small acts of diligence find their rhythm.

It all comes full circle. When I think about how the number of outcomes that could happen, good or bad, based on the sheer probability of the things, the control freak in me squirms. There is an element of chance in life. Maybe even luck. With that recognition, the only way I can think to move forward is to lean into this game of chance, accept it as a part of life.