Here in middle Indiana, most of the weeks between early January and early April are spent shuffling to class beneath a blanket of gray clouds whilst stepping around piles of slush leftover from last week’s snow.
It can be a dismal prospect—one that makes most of us consider holing up in our dorms with cups of tea and Netflix. Or, if you’re like me, grabbing your elephant pants and hopping onto the nearest gypsy caravan. Joining the circus also looks inviting. The options are limitless, really.
My school runs on a j-term schedule, which can make things even worse. For those of you unschooled in three-semester ways, that basically means that the month of January is a term all its own, with a whole class packed into three weeks and mini finals at the end.
There are good things about this plan. It allows for study abroad trips that cost less and don’t require being gone for an entire semester. Campus is less crowded, food lines are shorter, and it’s possible to focus intensely on just one class, rather than splitting your time and mental energy between four or five.
There are cons, of course. A good percentage of students choose to stay home during j-term, which means that during one of the darkest and coldest seasons of the year, you may not have your best friends around to talk to. Condensing a class into three weeks gets it out of the way and allows focus, but it also means that instead of having a week to do the reading, you have, say, one day. And all the while, your friends in the environmental science department are posting pictures of their three-week research trip in Bermuda.
No matter what semester schedule your school is on, January can be a rough time. I know that I tend to romanticize college life during Christmas break when I miss all my friends, and returning to school can be like getting a bucket of cold water in the face.
It’s hard to stick to it when you feel like there’s no end in sight. The semester roles on, day by day, week by week, and there’s still more than three months ahead of you. The sun hardly comes out, your hair freezes on the way to class, and the food offerings are classically sub-par. If there was ever a good time to give up, this feels like it.
Let me ask you something: why did you come to college in the first place? I mean, on that sweltering August day when you pulled into the parking lot with a vanload of boxes, what were you excited about? What made your heart skip when you received the acceptance letter? What made you say “yes?”
For me, it was the prospect of writing words that shifted people’s lives. Sure, I wanted to be published. I wanted enough money to settle in my own little bohemian cottage with a tea garden outside. But more than that, I wanted to write books that made people look at the world in a different way. Even if it was only one person, I wanted to change someone—or, at least, be the beginning of that change.
Could I write if I dropped out of college? Sure I could. But would I be branded as a college drop-out forever? Yes. Would I be forced to learn lessons by experience that I could have learned in the classroom? Also yes.
College is scary. It’s hard. Some days (especially in the middle of a cold winter), it’s the absolute worst. And yet here you are, here I am, rolling out of bed and rushing to class one day after another. We’ve survived impossible tests, mid-semester crises, and sleepless nights. We’ve overcome, and we’ve built relationships that will outlast our walk across the stage on graduation day.
I’d like to leave you with the final verse of this old Franciscan blessing, just in case you, like me, ever feel like giving up and disappearing into Narnia:
“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”
No matter what your major is, my friend, you’re already doing something that hundreds before you haven’t done. You’ll do more. Just hold on.