A perpetual state of euphoria? Sorry to disappoint.

Author name
Alex Shapanka

No one warned me about the wall I’d hit senior year. I heard that I would reach a point when I’d just say screw it and do things for completion because I’m almost out the door. I have more important things to do like skipping class and sitting on the plaza with some friends and some of the finest Busch Light or walking to Ben & Jerry’s to get a scoop on free cone day. It’s LSOC (last semester of college – because Duke loves useless acronyms); I’m supposed to be on an emotional high and full of life. Yet whenever someone asks me, how I’m doing I reply, “not that great.” Which generally elicits the “BUT YOU’RE A SENIOR!” response, particularly from underclassmen.

Thank you for reminding me that I’m supposed to be in a perpetual state of euphoria. Sorry to disappoint. Of course there’s fun to be had in college, especially as a senior. Everything is a little heightened and more meaningful. Lunch of Wednesday could be and likely will be the last time I eat at the Law School Refrectory. Gotta capture that moment and feel it – the living nostalgia that makes me long for the memories I’m in the process of making. It makes me hyperaware of my reality and impossible for me to turn a blind eye to the rest of life. The job hunt, papers, readings, and meetings are annoying, but they’re nothing to lose sleepover. Weird, considering I can’t seem to manage more than two consecutive hours a night recently. And maddening because I couldn’t explain why, until the other night.

I had been trying to pinpoint the source of my insomnia, looking to blame anxiety from work, fear of graduation, angst from unemployment, and worry of missing out on my remaining time. They were the natural places to look, but a few nights ago I had one of those muddled dreams that makes zero logical sense yet somehow is loosely intelligible to my consciousness. Meaning I don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell in explaining it. I can say, however, when I woke up I realized looking for a single root cause of my mood was a mistake. Every problem that should be like a small breeze blowing against the fire that keeps me going has slowly compounded to create a gale force wind that extinguished my flame. I’m burnt out.   

I’m tired of engaging in the same conversations about the Duke social hierarchy, the administration’s numerous shortcomings, people “not getting it or not paying attention,” and imagining what-if. I’ve heard the same canned dialogue since August 2009. I’ve learned a lot from it, but it’s time to move on. Those conversations, which are old and irritating to me now, shaped me. I’m sure I could still gain more from sticking around and listening to the same qualms, but I think I would grow more cynical and disillusioned. I need a clean break and to face a whole new set of conversations.

Which brings me to the classic question that a senior answers on a daily basis, “What are you doing with your life or in the real world?” Does it not baffle anyone else? Why ask me now? Why did you not ask me that question last year or two years ago? I understand the sort of response it’s trying to elicit, and that is exactly my problem. It equates life with work. Maybe it has escaped your attention, but the four years we spend at Duke are real. True, many of us may not have as many concerns or responsibilities as we will post-graduation, but the operative phrase is as many. We still face challenges and heavy situations here. Financial struggle, sexual assault, discrimination, death, and relationships I would say a more real than the impending “real world” that most people use as a misnomer for the workforce.  

College has been real, and that’s why I’m exhausted. “I’M A SENIOR.”