College is Hard. Like Concrete.

Elizabeth Stein

Last night I wiped out face-first on the sidewalk. Besides hurting a lot and reopening my old high school sports knee injury, the one thing I was surprised wasn’t more damaged was my pride. In fact, the only thing I could think about was how heroic I was — that I had some sort of battle wound that made me that much cooler. So when people asked why I was limping, I played it up; I brushed off their “oh-my-god-are-you-ok?”s with a nonchalant performance of an admission of the pain mixed with a trooper attitude.

I’ve done this before too: every time I get a mild enough injury (in other words, even a sore ankle) I find the appropriate body part brace or bandage in my closet at home and come back to school the next day just waiting for the questions to start coming. Social tip: if you’re feeling lonely, wear an ACE bandage one day.

But the thing that made me really consider this sort of stupid hypochondriac-slash-drama queen acting was when I stopped in Health Services (mind you, not because I thought something was seriously wrong, but rather because I hoped they would give me an intense-looking wrap for my knee) and was told to get an x-ray.

X-rays are serious in my book. X-rays mean a legit problem. When I realized how time-consuming this process was and the gravity of what the results might be, I immediately began to regret my decision to “check it out” with a professional. The last time I did this, I found out that the phrase “rub some dirt in it” is not meant to be taken literally. Thus, I was praying that my own stupidity wouldn’t get me into serious trouble again.

So, my roommate determined that this is a metaphor for my start at Colgate. I came to school early for a pre-orientation and that, combined with the week of orientation, colored my first impressions of what life was like here. Perhaps that’s why it took (and is still taking) a while to get adjusted to college. I worked hard in high school (obviously), and I also knew coming here that Colgate has high expectations. But I was not prepared for the intensity, the competition, and the ridiculous amount of effort expected of me — all of which require a diligence and motivation to which my procrastinating self was unaccustomed.

My first ever college paper was a disaster. I failed. It’s not that I blew it off (because I didn’t) but I do admit I didn’t put in quite as much time and thought as it deserved.

A lot of people’s expectations of college are unrealistic, especially compared with the ease of high school, and high school’s convenient ability to allow us to slack off and still get good grades. But Colgate brought a (probably much-needed) wake-up call to show me the importance of hard work — just daring me to make the Dean’s List. The work load, like my x-ray, is serious. I can’t tell people I go to one of the best schools in the country without qualifying it with actual exertion on my part.

My willingness to don the wraps, the braces and the bandages is certainly not a cry for pity, but yet it’s not quite just a call for attention either. I think it’s more about affecting an image: I think I equate injuries with bravery, and so by broadcasting this I can pretend that I too am brave (a characteristic the Facebook application Compare People often reminds me is my “worst”). I associate injuries with things like sports and war — intense, tough, honorable, heroic things — where battle scars are ones to be proud of.

Except this time, I realized that battle scars are called scars for a reason. They’re not medals. They come with real pain, X-ray-worthy pain, not surface band-aid pain.

Colgate’s academics are the same. Well, maybe comparing classes to bone breaking is a little dramatic, but college is not, for example, the pictures of last night’s party, just as my knee injury is not the exorbitant amounts of Advil I was prescribed and the bandage that proclaims my “intensity.”

Therefore I can’t always get the good grades and the parties without the studying, nor, I realized, sitting alone in a dimly-lit waiting room, can I bask in the glow of my wound’s attention without the time I’ll be spending on the stationary bike regaining range of motion — similar to the time I spent re-doing that failed essay. So stupidity (both in the classroom and on the concrete sidewalk) isn’t worth it. However: since I tend not to learn from my mistakes, I give you full permission to laugh when you see me sprawled on the ground next time.