I remember hearing about the so-called Sophomore Slump in high school. It was on the field hockey field, and two girls were complaining about their mile time, saying their times were lower because of the Sophomore Slump. I shrugged that off as a clever excuse for being out of shape, and didn’t really hear the phrase again until college.
My upperclassman friends started telling me near the end of freshman year of college to watch out for the Sophomore Slump. You’ll be less motivated, they told me. You won’t make as good of grades, they explained. You’ll gain weight, they warned. You’ll want to quit some of your commitments, they admitted.
Why? I kept asking.
“You know, the glory days of freshman year are over, junior year you’ll be abroad one semester and then the other semester you’ll take interesting courses in your major, and then senior year you’ll just be taking fun classes and looking for a job. So sophomore year is just a pointless year, and you’ll realize it and feel unmotivated.”
I didn’t believe them.
Sophomore year would be better, I challenged. Freshman year was incredible, and the only thing that didn’t make it perfect was the fact that I was still working out the kinks of the college life: I didn’t really know where every building was located yet, I didn’t fully have a routine down, I was still developing some study habits. Sophomore year, I reasoned, I’d have all the kinks worked out, and life would be great.
Now that the first semester of my sophomore year is almost over, I look at the past three months and I can confidently say I didn’t fall prey to the Sophomore Slump.
But that’s because I fell prey to the Sophomore Spiral.
It’s like an even more intense version of the Sophomore Slump, where you go so far as to have a complete identity crisis and where every little aspect of your life seems to spiral out of control.
At first, I thought I was just burned out. But that didn’t make sense, because how could I be burned out after just a few weeks?
Maybe it’s sleep deprivation. Yeah, I’m sure that’s part of it. I don’t function well on less than eight hours of sleep, and this semester getting more than six hours was an accomplishment.
Maybe it’s adjusting to my new apartment. I’m sure that’s also part of it.
But the overarching reason I’m in this spiral is because I just miss freshman year.
I miss being in a dorm where I could walk the halls and people knew me and cared about me. I miss having time to go to every basketball game, to tent and not get any sleep and be okay with that because I’m waking up beside my best friends. I miss running to Trinity Café right before 9pm to beat the Equivalency Line for those savored cinnamon scones. I miss being in walking distance of all of my other friends from my grade, and just a few rooms down from my best dorm friends. I miss feeling safe, not having to lock my dorm door or worry that my apartment on central could be robbed. I miss feeling confident in showing that I don’t have my life together, because no freshman had theirs together, either. I miss meeting new people, staying in Marketplace for way too long, being in classes that were so much easier. I miss not being defined by a social group. I miss running into people at the gym. I miss going on late night walks and talking about politics. I miss being excited to learn at an incredible institution. I miss finding new study spots, going to fraternity rush events, staying up late in the common room to talk to friends who were the closest thing to family. In a weird way, I miss being rejected. Because at least I tried, at least I put myself out there. Nowadays I maintain normalcy, continue with my routine, don’t take risks. I don’t meet as many new people, I’m not as confident in who I am. My classes are harder, I’m busier, I’m lonelier. I haven’t just slumped; I’ve spiraled downward. I go through the motions, I’m sad, confused, and mostly just want things to be like freshman year again.
Now that Winter Break is around the corner, I’m ready for the spiral to end. So I’ve taken some time to think critically about how to get out of this funk.
We all miss old times. I miss a lot of aspects of high school, I miss times with my family when I was much younger. But, at the same time, I don’t wish for those times to replace my current times. I don’t wish my times in high school would be how my times in college are, so why should freshman year of college versus sophomore year of college be any different? Missing something so much that it affects my daily life does nothing but make the present worse. Missing freshman year will just keep me in an endless spiral of sadness and loneliness, the very spiral I’ve been in all semester.
I have to learn to love my new normal. I have to learn to love my apartment for what it is, not for it being lonelier than my dorm. I have to learn to love my friends, even though we’re all spread out. I have to learn to love my classes, even though they’re demanding. I have to learn to love Sophomore Year, because it’s already halfway over.
I’ve been getting a general consensus that most sophomores are feeling lonely and sad. I can’t count how many of my friends have had complete breakdowns to me over just not feeling happy this semester. The adjustment is hard. Admitting that this year is different and that we can’t do anything about it is even harder. But all of this time we’re spending upset about having to accept a new reality, we’re missing chances to love this reality. All the times I felt lonely in my apartment, I could have invited someone over. All the times I missed late night walks, I could have taken a bus over to East and gone on a walk with one of my new freshman friends. There are a lot of things I could have done, but instead I let my life spiral downward. I let myself be the saddest I’ve ever been, I let myself feel lonely, I let myself feel like I don’t belong here.
So over thanksgiving, I took some time to think about all the things I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for an amazing roommate, who has my back so much that sometimes I don’t even notice she has it. I’m grateful for new friends I’ve made through this blog, for a super comfy bed, for nailing down exactly what I’m most intellectually curious about (global health, in case you’re wondering), for parents who don’t freak out when I call crying, for friends who laugh at my not-funny jokes, for grades that pay off, for research opportunities, for incredible conversations, for spontaneous fun, for wonderful lunches and dinners with professors, for a community of people who, even though don’t live right near me anymore, would still do anything for me. I’m grateful for a campus that accepts me for who I am, and for the ability to see that it’s my own nonsensical, immature, irrational words telling me I don’t belong, not the words of my peers.
I can’t miss what I can’t get back. I can only be grateful for what I do have. I have to accept, and even love, my new reality, realizing that every year brings new loves and bigger challenges.
A spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point. You are the central point. Your life can spiral upwards around you, or downwards around you. But the point is always constant. You are constant. Your life may seem out of control, may seem out of reach and not the way it used to be, but you are still you. The sophomore spiral is just a period of life where we lose ourselves and let the spiral spin downwards. So allow yourself to remember who you are, and spin the spiral the other direction in pursuit of activities and people who help you always remember just how unique and enough you are. And remember to be grateful for everything the present has to offer, instead of wishing for the past.