Contracting senioritis too early

By Aubrey Klein

With the 50-days party behind them, it will be mere weeks before Lawrence’s senior class graduates. Soon, they will be officially thrust into the simultaneously scary and exciting world of real adulthood. Some have jobs lined up, others have graduate school acceptance letters in hand and the rest are quite content to return to their parents’ house with fingers crossed that their bedroom has not been turned into a home gym or taken over by the family dog.

Everyone knows about “senioritis,” the silly diagnosis for near-graduates who mentally check out of school because they are just ready to be done. Despite its questionable credibility of senioritis, there seems to be a different frame of mind that descends on graduating seniors in the last few months of the school year.

While I’m only a junior, I have definitely been exposed to senioritis throughout the past two terms. My three roommates are seniors, and there is no doubt that their senioritis has rubbed off on me. When you spend a lot of time with graduating seniors, their desire to graduate starts to affect you as well.

You see, as my senior friends are in a near crisis-like state, they have swept me up with them. When they decide whether to apply to graduate school or not, I am led to struggle with the same question.

I find myself compulsively checking job search websites while they lament over the lack of jobs in their field despite the fact that I won’t be applying any time soon. As they contemplate the transition from Lawrence to “the real world,” I lay awake at night thinking seriously about the ultimate trajectory of my life.

It’s not bad to have a plan — or to not have a plan for that matter — but worrying makes it hard to concentrate on the thing that will get to that job search in the first place: graduating college. Instead of reading my texts for school, my bedside table is heaped with self-help books and inspirational material that I page through frequently, desperately seeking meaning.

I’m floating in the space of “What am I meant to do with my life?” instead of on the ground, feet firmly planted on “I need to write this essay.” While I understand that doing well in school and making it to graduation is my immediate goal, all my assignments and classes seem trivial compared to that big question: what am I here to do?

Just like my senior friends, I’ve already started to become slightly disillusioned with college life. It feels weird, disappointing and scary all at the same time because I love Lawrence and I love what I’m doing here.

What happens when you contract senioritis too early? How are you supposed to stay motivated when you are already itching to leave? How are you supposed to enjoy your last year of college when you feel lost and directionless?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. In fact, I’m still utterly confused. The only thing I can do to keep myself from floating into that existential place is to remind myself that there are things in life that need to get done that have no real bearing on life’s big questions. For example: I need to submit this Moodle post. I need to complete this paperwork. I need to turn in my housing contract.

Is it that I am so worried about myself because I am envious of them? They are leaving and I am not. They get to go on to their next adventure and I do not. I wholeheartedly want for them to figure out just what they want to do, to make a plan and to succeed at it. I want them to start answering life’s big questions so they can begin to help me, cut the path a little bit.

One of the books on my bedside table right now is Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things,” a collection of her “Dear Sugar” advice columns from The Rumpus. Along with numerous other truthful nuggets about life, she says this: “Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”

I think Strayed has it right. Seeking intention in more of our daily tasks and struggles can help cure our anxieties more than any plain pondering can do. Those with early-onset senioritis, including me, need to reframe our thinking about school and college life.

When we see it as part of a process rather than a means to an end, we find that while we do not have the final solution, we are closer than we think to answering those big questions.