Struggle Bus

I would just like to say that I am as guilty as you and everyone else. Justifiably much more so on account of writing this. Anyway.
Living in Southern California, it is a given that during the summer months it is going to be hot. So, sitting at a lunch table at my university at twelve in the afternoon, it is more or less sweltering. I am trying to eat my pasta salad and read about Philip Marlowe, and trying not to notice the geysers of sweat streaming out of every pore on my body. I am trying to concentrate and not to notice that the air is an oven and I am grandma’s favorite chocolate chip cookies.
What I do end up noticing in the midst of this all is how much people complain.
I had situated myself at the table closest to the swinging glass door that leads into one of the campus’s largest buildings, and every time someone walked in and out I would be hit with a glacial blast of air conditioning and a grating blast of upset comments.
“Oh my lord it is so hot out here I think I might die,” said a girl who was wearing shorts that truly represented their namesake.
“This is the worst thing I have ever felt,” one guy with a backwards hat said to his buddy.
“Oh my gosh I am literally sweating right now,” a girl whined.
I understand. It is cold inside the building. I have a friend who wears a snuggie to class half ironically and half out of actual necessity. It is hot outside. The shock of going between the extremes of the two is something to comment on. We are human beings and our fragile little bodies feel most comfortable in difficult to achieve seventy two degree weather. Fair enough. But the way these people were going about it conjured images of the last scene of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark or the unfortunate end of the Wicked Witch of the West.
This epidemic plaguing our students, however, transcends a particularly sunny day. The stream of climate complaints brought me back to the period in time every college student knows and hates – finals.
Each time the end of the semester draws near, I start to get the sneaking suspicion that the zombie apocalypse is upon us. Students that at one time could summon enough energy to undergo the herculean task of putting on a pair of jeans have devolved into lower life forms who can only muster shoving their legs into sweatpants. The once perfectly made-up hordes of girls show faces to the world that make-up once hid and they’re not always pretty, people walk around with subdued looks in their eyes, and everyone’s mutual moaning contributes to a dull roar that could solidify any theory of the reality of the undead.
What’s more is, this population of people seem to be self aware of their conditions, according to the conversations that I overhear.
“How are you?” says a girl to her friend as she takes a seat in the library.
“Oh my god I am literally dying,” her friend replies, and she proceeds to launch into a tirade about her silent killer, the exams she’s been studying for.
“How’s it going?” a girl passing her two friends in the hallway asks.
“I think my eyes are going to fall out of my head, I can’t even do this anymore,” one of them says. Well, that sounds like a serious condition. Instead of telling her to immediately consult a physician, the third girl goes, “Yeah me too I have so much work it totally sucks.”
In the gym: “How are you?” “Dying.”
In the student union: “What’s up?” “Literally dead.”
In class: “How was your day?” “Studying is going to kill me.”
And possibly my favorite interaction, two guys passing each other: “What’s up man?” “Hrrnrnrnrnrngh.” “Yeah man I feel you.”
Yet when the glorious day dawns that finals are over, the complaints do not stop. No, the virus can’t be defeated that easily. People will find anything that they possibly can about which to register a complaint.
“Sup dude?” says a boy in the library sitting down next to his friend to use the computer. I’m seated directly next to the two of them.
“I got a problem,” his friend says. “My parents have a timeshare in Mexico, but they have one in Germany, and I totally can’t decide where to go for break.”
“What a bust!” says the first boy, and throughout the rest of their conversation as they try to puzzle out a solution to the pressing problem, I try not to curl into a quivering ball of disbelief.
The extremity of this example is no doubt produced by my attending a private school, but if people can complain about a timeshare in both Mexico and Germany, what can’t they complain about? They can complain about being hungry, being hot, being cold, wanting to go home, being bored, being tired, not being tired enough, about how other people complain. It never ends.
A new term recently arose to coin this phenomenon – the struggle bus. Having a rough day? You’re riding the struggle bus. You can say, “Hi, how are you?” to your friend, and if they say, “Struggling,” they’ve concisely informed you that they are dealing with some or all of the aforementioned complaints. Some might also say in response, “The struggle is real.”
No, no it’s not. They struggle is not real. Look where you are. Look where you live. Look where you don’t live.
It is human nature to complain, and I understand that at some times it is completely necessary. If you’re uncomfortable, it’s hard not to say something about it. Sometimes it’s even merely for the sake of making conversation that people complain.
If you spill coffee on your favorite white shirt it’s only natural to want to assault the nearest inanimate object and complain about how it sucks. I do not think you should soldier on with a stiff upper lip and just think to yourself, “oh, look at that, worse things have happened, now I have a cool coffee design on my best tee.”
I am not asking that we do this and never complain and one day explode into the stratosphere like a bottle of coke that has been shaken up to the point of bursting. I am just asking that we reserve observations that struggle is real for the time that the struggle is, in fact, real. Because when something happens that really deserves a complaint, we will have no words left. They will have all gone up like hot air from when we wasted our breath complaining about the hot air.
The things we complain about most are really our biggest blessings in disguise. Us college students are usually attending school because we chose to be here. We did this to ourselves, people. Let’s snap ourselves out of the mindset that our work is going to kill us – it may be hard, it may break us, but it will one day make us, and we are more privileged than we have any right to complain about.

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Thoughts on First Day of School

I am 20 and I am in college and I am at that point where people have stopped asking me what I want to be when I grow up.

Did I forget to notice when they stopped because I was too busy getting older? I can’t even tell them that when I was little I wanted to be a rockstar anymore. No, no one’s buying that. Because now I have to have my life together.

When I was little – when was that? I don’t think I’ll ever be big. I don’t think I’ll ever sit down one day and think to myself, well, here it is. I’m big. I’m all grown up now. This is the me I thought I’d be when people asked me about my future.

I am still little and I still don’t know what I want to be.

I wish people would still ask me that question. Ask me, the opposite of little with my long arms and lanky legs, what I want to be when I grow up even though most people have to tilt their chin upward to meet my eyes. Because I have an answer still. We all have an answer still.

I want to be a rockstar. I want to be a journalist, I want to be a super model, I want to write for fashion magazines and fly on expensive jets to important meetings sipping on alcoholic beverages that I can’t pronounce. I want to design video games, I want to write for a comedy television series, I want to be a teacher. I want to be a songwriter, an editor, a blogger, a poet – maybe I’ll even be homeless. Especially if I choose any of the most recent career paths mentioned.

Then there’s those people who try to break out of the mold of choosing a precise “what they want to be.” We all hate those people a little. Those people are cop-outs. They want think they will go wherever life takes them and be fine with it, so they all say, “whatever I do I just want to be happy.”

I don’t just want to be happy. Oh god no.

I just want to be happy sounds like something a person sitting in a circle of chairs who just announced “Hi my name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic” just said. Or someone lying on their back on a sofa staring at a ceiling discussing how they made daisy chains in their childhood.

If I want anything for my life, I don’t want that boxed-up plastic smiles white picket fence no shoes on the carpet and no elbows on the table “just being happy.” Where is the raw ache of a heart that’s been ripped in two, the searing frustration of hate, the emptiness of being alone, the fullness of loving someone you’ve lost, the fullness of just loving someone, that makes us alive? I don’t want to be happy. I want to be sad. Depressed. Elated. Jealous and ignorant and spiteful and carefree and nervous and terrified and hopeful. Other people want to be happy, they want to be orthodontists and helicopter pilots but all I know for sure is that I want to be.