Strugg. Strugg life. “All aboard the struggle bus!” If you’re an upperclassman, I am pretty much certain that you’ve heard these terms from a friend who has just been hit with a tidal wave of papers, problem sets and independent research. When I was a sophomore, and I used to hear one of my then-junior friends use these slang terms, I would chuckle and then say, “It’s OK. You’re going to finish. You can do it!” I sounded like an excessively optimistic cheerleader or life coach. And yes, fortunately, all my friends did hand in their assignments and move on to the next tasks. However, I never fully grasped the “strugg life” until I became a junior myself this year. The words that I thought were used to make an otherwise stressful situation less tense seemed to have lost their comedic relief. Sure, it was fine to say to my other junior and senior friends. But immediately after I uttered the phrase, I looked to my left and right and saw papers in four different languages scattered all over my desk and religion and critical theory books stacked so high that the structure it created resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit, but you get the picture.
Frankly, I’ve had it better than most. I declared my major early and my second — and last — junior paper was due before winter break. But fall break was unusually difficult with the junior paper. “You think you know, but you have no idea.” In hindsight, I felt more than ready. I knew my topic very early on, and I was fortunate enough to have an adviser with whom I kept in close contact throughout the process. In hindsight, I thought that 20-30 pages was not a lot if I just began in September. But then I realized that I had chosen a topic for which the amount of resources was scant. How was I going to write 20-30 pages on a topic that had no prior foundation? Struggs. Not to mention, just having a large research paper always in the back of your mind — in the midst of all your other response essays and papers — can be quite annoying. Yet at least I have friends who understand this new part of our Princeton careers. In fact, I believe these trying times have strengthened our bonds.
Then I began to worry about how I needed to be more efficient and stop depending on my mother for total financial support, so I began to work. It felt good paying for things with money that I actually worked for. But then I realized that my social life was in an embarrassing state. Despite the fact that I am in an eating club and participate in a good number of extracurricular activities, I had to keep reminding myself, “What have I done for me lately?” Writing was a great outlet for me to unwind, but there were times when I had to remind myself to go out and get some fresh air. It wasn’t exactly a struggle, but I had to learn how to work hard and play hard — or just remember to play period.
And oh, internships. Don’t even get me started on internships. You’re an upperclassman. Half of your Princeton career is over, and January of your junior year has arrived, so it’s time to start thinking about life outside the bubble for real this time. Because internships are strongly encouraged since they help with securing a job, the application and interview processes can be quite daunting. Making appointments with Career Services, filling out forms, writing cover letter after cover letter and prepping for interviews is overwhelming. Aside from all of this, for students who are studying for the MCAT, LSAT or GRE, it’s difficult to get to studying that last portion of your flashcards or taking another practice exam when you have to think about your other commitments. It’s almost as though you have to plan for the future even though your immediate future is smacking you right in the face.
But to be honest, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I’ve learned my limits while at the same time I’ve pushed myself to reach new heights. I’ve learned to devote myself to endeavors in which I feel as if I’m actually gaining something. And as for my friends, even though it seems like the struggle bus always has all of its seats full, I am proud of them for having survived, even if they have to go through the same process next semester or year. We may not all know where this struggle bus goes, but it’s taking us somewhere. I would say it’s leading us to graduation, but I believe that the skills we learn here are preparing us for life outside of the FitzRandolph Gate. We just have to strap on our seat belts and be prepared — but also make sure that we try to find a way to enjoy the view en route to this unspecified destination.
Morgan Jerkins is a comparative literature major from Williamstown, N. J. She can be reached at email@example.com.