My first year of college was easy. It’s easy to ignore homework. It’s easy to avoid studying and pretend like you’ll do fine on the test anyway because you’re smart. It’s easy to curl into a ball and/or crawl into a hole and hide from your problems when you realize that’s not actually how things work. It’s easy to stare at your failing grades and pretend that as long as no one knows, they don’t exist.
It’s easy to say you’ll do better next time.
Then, sophomore year, I failed a class in my major because it was harder than I expected it to be. It was as simple as that. The second time around I passed it with an A because I knew what I was going into. But I’m out of grade exclusions—I can’t fail any more classes because I disagree with the workload.
This semester, I’m trying. I’m really trying. I’ve spent hours upon hours at various libraries writing code in two different languages. I met with my advisor and determined that I’m about a whole semester behind where I need to be, and I don’t know how it happened.
I wrote a genre fiction story for a literary fiction class. I learned the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction. I have two projects due on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving break, and two presentations to give the next day. I’m currently in Ohio, stealing away time from visiting my family to work on said projects (my cousins have faster internet then we do, so that’s a plus).
I had two tests last week that I did not study for (because I forgot, or didn't have time, or both) and probably did very poorly on, which is extra irritating because those classes are stupid easy and I should have A's in both of them.
I went three days with crippling stomach pain which made it difficult to do much of anything let alone finish the programming project I was working on. And because that's not something you talk about to the guy you just met who wants to get this thing done as badly as you do, my partner probably thinks my face just exists in that contortion of pain. Then I did a bad thing and googled my symptoms. WebMD told me I had gastrointestinal bleeding.
One night last week I left my phone on a university bus and spent an hour chasing it around. I did manage to recover my phone. I survive on coffee and Chipotle’s steak burritos and guacamole (it’s good guacamole).
Sometimes I even sleep.
But I’m not failing anything. I’m working really hard to pull a C out of my C (the programming language) class, but I’m not going to fail it. I had a conversation with my fiction writing teacher about my passion for writing and she mentioned that perhaps I was in the wrong major, and for the first time I didn’t feel the urge to question the course I’ve chosen.
I like computer science. Through the downpour of awful C projects and deadlines sneaking up on me, there are still bright moments of exuberance when an algorithm I’ve been working on for hours begins to work correctly. But I’ve accepted that I don’t have to love it all the time for it to be the right major. I know that even if I chose to major in creative writing, there would be times when it would become laborious and dull and I would long for the cool logic of computer science.
So it’s not easier now. It’s much, much harder. But it’s better, I guess. I am physically exhausted, and so sleep-deprived that I actually stepped into the sunlight one chilly afternoon and became genuinely concerned that my shadow extended far enough into the street to be hit by a car. My shadow, you guys.
But I no longer carry the debilitating guilt of knowing that I’m failing classes. I am not plagued by the helplessness that comes from feeling like you can’t ask for help, and the dread that settles it when you know it’s too late.
I’ve traded one form of exhaustion for another, but at least this way I’ll graduate.