Buckle up, this one’s going to be a bit preachy. It’s time for me to bless you with a quarter-life crisis. Y’know, standard stuff. Don’t worry though, I’ll throw in some parentheticals for giggles.
Almost 8 months ago, when Justin Dalme interviewed me for a story he was doing about students going abroad, he asked me what I was most looking forward to. I answered pretty simply with “A new perspective”. Sure, it’s a canned answer. I get that. I’m full of stupid little –isms that make me feel sagely and wise. It’s crap, the lot of it. Yeah, I wanted a new perspective, but what does that even mean?
A lot of us are at a point in our lives where we’re completely and utterly lost. Just look at Facebook, if you dare, and see that almost half of wall is graffitied with motivational malarkey that’s supposed to change our lives. It’s grasping. The intentions are good, I’m sure, but motivation is only as useful as what you do with it.
I’ll admit it, I all but wasted my Christmas break. That doesn’t make me special. Hell, I’m probably in the majority. I’m not proud of it though (this is all simply a ruse of self-deprecation to help me make my point). Every day’s been more or less the same. I go to bed thinking “Tomorrow’s going to be the day that I get off my lazy ass and do something”… and then I wake up completely bankrupt of motivation. Most days I’ve just watched hours on hours of House, M.D. and plinked around on guitar, instead of writing essays, short stories, words in general… instead of cooking, instead of cleaning my room and getting ready to move all of my stuff again, instead of looking for internships. I’ve been a lazy ass. That’s what I’ve realized. It might have been a new perspective that I went looking for, but it’s sure as hell not what I needed most. It’s discipline.
In Belfast I made a German friend, let’s call him Chris. Chris was a studious person. He probably still is, but for the sake of this parable, we’re living in the past. Just two years older than me in age and one in class standing, Chris was the type of person who had everything figured out. He knew what he liked, he knew what he didn’t. Polarized and polarizing. He had grad school all lined up, a girlfriend whom he loved to the moon and back, and a curious nature and a penchant for well thought out arguments that pissed off a lot of people. The essentials. He was also the type of guy to finish his mountain of work a month or two in advance. So what makes him different than anyone else? We’ve coasted, I think. A lot of us did well enough in our first 18 years of life without having to show much in the way of drive or effort. I can only speak for me, but college is more of a test of “Can you sit down for X hours straight and do this work? Can you put in the effort to understand this?” So is it the environment we grew up in? Is it the culture? Or is there a special little discipline butterfly that lives in all of us that we simply have to find and cultivate? More likely, it’s a combination of everything. But how do you get there? That’s what I want to know, and despite seeming obvious, I think the answers a bit more complex. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t have it, so this is genuine curiosity.
I’m not special, I’m just given a venue to write about myself. Anymore though, that’s not such a rarity. And surely that’s the problem. Sure, write for yourself. Keep a diary. Those are all fine. Yeah, you matter. You’re alive and (probably) in college on your way through life and that’s a pretty cool bargain. But if you know it, who else really needs to? (What an original thought!)
Self-aggrandizement, that’s the new flavor of the month addiction, more so than nicotine and caffeine at this point.
I’m guilty too. None of this is groundbreaking, none of this is worth philosophizing over. But for me, it’s actualized. It’s experiential. It’s the realization that hard work isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is necessary. The time for coasting is over. It’s also the realization that realizations alone are worthless.
In summary, I learned in Europe that it’s time to nix the WiFi ties and get disciplined. It's too easy to sit and be content, too much of a slippery slope.
I’ll leave you with this, yet another canned question, since it’s close enough to New Year’s to still keep resolutions: How many motivational articles, how many success stories, how many clear accounts is it gonna take for you to want to make your own?
Will Callahan is a junior literature and math/physics double major who spent the 2015 Fall Semester studying abroad as an Irish-American Scholar.