Three years in, I'm starting to think the library isn't how I want to learn about the world

I was walking to my friend Hannah’s house last night, eating my dinner – a pear in one hand and a samosa in the other. My bag – full of notebooks and texts and power cords – was thudding heavily against my back, but I barely noticed.

My attitude towards hygiene has gotten pretty defeatist (“I’m just going to smell again tomorrow anyways”), my exercise now consists of running for the bus, and I no longer have even the contents for a modest grilled cheese in my fridge.

Sounds like another November, when students everywhere start churning out assignments at a frantic rate, all while gearing up for exams. They have a name for this combination in the spring – “March Madness” – but I’m not sure what they call it in the winter, when we collectively descend into a long, chilly Ottawa winter and a bout of Seasonal Anxiety Disorder.

Nasty November would probably be a good one. Nauseating November. Or how about we just call it what it is – Extremely Crappy and Seemingly Endless November.

Other years, I’ve marked up my agenda and gotten down to work. This year, however, it seems like my head is perpetually somewhere else.

I thought this might have to do with a lack of time management, disorganization, or even just laziness. And I don’t dispute those are probably part of the problem. But I also thought this lack of concentration was unique to me.

But after some really solid whining, I started to hear from a lot of friends – bright, well adjusted kids with well oiled work ethics – that third year was getting to them, too.

A large number of them have dropped a class, conceding that four is just more manageable. One friend told me he’s taking next semester off. Another says he wishes he was. Others are going on co-op, opting for a lighter course load, going on exchange (including me), or just plain dragging their feet.

We developed a couple theories about why this might be. The obvious one is – third year is just harder. Like every year of university, the standards go up – the papers are longer, the readings heavier, the topics more challenging. Naturally, there are some growing pains.

But there might be something else. Call it the half done burnout, if you want. But you can trace it to people like me who, for the first time, are realizing all they’ve seen is school – and are thinking that might not be a good thing.

I went from high school straight into university, and when I moved across the country, like many first years, I was just seventeen.

I had done nothing. My work experience consisted of making lattes, my writing experience was basically a couple book reports. I had good teachers and I worked hard – I had to, to get into university – but I had never stayed in on a weekend night to do school work.

My life experience was even thinner. I had travelled with my family, but I had never been further then summer camp on my own. I had never cooked for myself, nor had a serious boyfriend. And as my first lonely semester proved, I didn’t really know how to make friends.

Going to university was what I wanted, and I don’t think I would have been happy otherwise. I think the idea of working or travelling – veering away from a path which might be stressful, but was at least well marked – scared me more than school ever did.

I have a lot of friends who didn’t go to school immediately. And I have to admit, I thought if they didn’t go right away, they might never go.

Two years later, most of those people have proved me wrong. Many of them are now in school, and unlike a lot of restless 17-year-olds, they actually want to be there. All of them have travelled around the world, they’ve worked and moved out and grown up.

I love school, and I think it’s where I belong at this point in my life. But sometimes I feel like what I’ve seen the most is the commute from my apartment to the library and back. And there’s only so much you can learn from that.

And when I apply for internship after internship, anxiously poring over my transcript or resume and agonizing over my post-grad potential for grad school or even just a journalism job, lately I`ve been one to stop and take a deep breath. I look up from my computer and out of my dining room window, where the late afternoon sunshine is drifting along the weathered bricks of the lovely old houses that line my street. And I think:

What’s the big hurry?

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