Coping with College

Aaron Nell Millado is a student at Rutgers University currently studying for his English Major. He recently published a poetry book titled, By Anonymous: A Collection of Poems, and is an aspiring poet, actor, and artist. Visit his website at
Graduating high school with the “swag” Class of 2015, at Elizabeth High School (Elizabeth, NJ), was one of the most important turning points in my life—graduating high school is one of the greatest turning points to any student’s life for that matter—why? There’s nothing ahead the road but unpaved gravel, pebbles, and mud. Lots and lots of mud! If I can describe college in a beautifully crafted metaphor, I’d use that one, because it perfectly illustrates what your life is going to be like for the next four years or so. Let’s just ignore how cliché the road metaphor is, and face the facts. Fact number one: College is not easy. You, future college student, my young Padawan, are in for a long laborious and arduous quest that you must overcome, and hopefully I can give you a kick in the right direction. (You better get used to getting kicked around, ‘cause life is gonna do that often!) Hopefully, I can help ease your transition from young adulthood to full adulthood, and help you cope with college in general.
First off, lets give you a big round of applause! [CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!] You made it through high school (and puberty) and now you’re at the fork of the road that Robert Frost always talk about, “the road less traveled” (and yada, yada, yada, something about tigers and a fearless symmetry). You were given the choice whether to go pursue a college education or not. You chose to be the academic scholar. Good for you! However, if you did not, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong about not wanting to go to college. Maybe college isn’t for you and you want to try something else or maybe you aren’t ready for it and want to explore and get your feet wet, so to speak, first before tackling this asymmetrical tiger looming over your shoulders like that sack of burden Santa Claus carries around every Christmas Eve. (Poor guy, come to think of it, he’s overworked, and underpaid. Give that guy a cookie, or a paycheck!) Anyways, back to the main point: you have chosen to be a student at a prestigious school or at a community college (there’s no shame in that, either) because you genuinely want to learn, not just academics, but you want to learn something new, something you were ignorant of until discovering it for yourself. To do that you must have the nerves of steel of Superman, the intense focus of Batman, and the humor of Deadpool (more on humor later). Like I said college is not all parties and distractions, believe there are multiple distractions in college, there are mountains of dirt that you must climb in order to achieve your goal. But how do you do it?
Well, you must first set a goal for yourself. What are you trying to If you’re like me, then you must be a passive, “go-with-the-flow” type person. That’s cool, I respect your flow, bro; but, personally, I only swim when I need to. Set a goal for yourself to reach. It can be as simple as make a lasting friendship with someone new or trying out new foods (while on the subject of new foods, I’d recommend Vietnamese food. Order pho, it’s great. Trust me!) whatever it is, you must set it at the end of your muddy road and reach it, no matter the cost. For example, I am a bit of strange case. I love to write, but hate to write. Well to be more specific, I love to write creatively—poems, short stories, and the like—but I really despise the idea of analytical research and other examples of boring and laborious forms of writing. So, in my first semester, I have grown tired of writing full-length college essays that I decided to write a collection (more like a chapbook, really) of original poetry. I self published it and is now being sold on Amazon. I was officially a published (despite being an amateur) poet. But the point of this short synopsis in my life, is that you must set up a goal, whether be it short term or long term, and do everything you can to accomplish it. You must possess Superman’s nerves of steel to take a leap of faith and engage in an activity you normally wouldn’t do. Join a club, engage in sports with friends, and attend school plays. As a commuter, I find attending clubs and campus activities difficult; and if you are a commuter, just like me, don’t fret! There are many activities you can get involved in, like the campus magazines. Send in a sample of your work and have it published for the student body to read about. Engage in something new and find your true passion; that is your first step.
College is no doubt loads of work. I have friends who fall into a state of depression because of the loads of work they have to accomplish. (If you are an engineering major, I only wish you the best of luck! ‘Cause you are in for a bigger surprise!) But don’t let quality overcome you. Focus. Remember you are in college for a reason, and you’re paying loads of cash for it! I recommend getting the most of what you paid for, get more than you bargained for, but don’t lose sight of the gold. By now, there’s mud all over your high school cap and gown, but that’s okay. There’s a fresh cap and gown by the end of it all. Don’t get worked up about the now. Acknowledge it and let it pass, like you would with a thought during meditation. You have a thought? Acknowledge it and do no allow it to fester a storm within your mind. Batman is all about focus is he not? He would not have been able to conquer his fears if he constantly cried about his dead parents, no, he got up and did something about it. That is what I want you to do. Focus on the important things: if you have an essay due, finish it before the deadline and not the day off; if you have a presentation, practice, practice, practice; if you have an exam, you best be studying instead of hanging out with that sorority babe or fraternity hunk, that flirted with you in class. If you have a goal that needs to be done, you must accomplish it otherwise it’ll build on top of your shoulders until you collapse like a tower of Jenga blocks.
There’s work to be done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t loosen up a bit. Humor, I believe, is the most underappreciated form of coping. I use humor to cope at funerals! I make jokes about the dearly departed, even if some think it’s distasteful, but that’s just the way I cope. I ask you to find humor in the tiniest things to give a sprinkle of flavor to your college education. If you are always worked up about work, then you will begin to hate college, and that’s not ideal, since you’re already chest high in mud. Deadpool’s humor, no matter how twisted, is just the right ingredient of superhero characteristics I would recommend, at a proper dose of course. I would recommend writing these idiosyncrasies down, in poetry, in prose, in a diary; because you’ll find that inspiration is always around the corner, all it takes is for someone to extract it. When I write poetry, I find myself writing about things I observe, whether in my own life, in someone else’s or in current events. Poetry helps me clean off the dirt off my shoulder and helps lighten up the load of rocks I have to carry.
In the end you are the tarmac-laying machine that turns the rough road ahead of you into a fine street, with maybe a few potholes, but not everything is perfect. There’s a lot expected of you from everyone you know; but don’t let that be your burden, let that be their burden, because in the end, no one knows how to get you out of that pit of mud, other than you. As Christopher Walken once said in that famous monologue, from the movie Catch Me if You Can, “Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.” Be that second mouse.

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