Sunday morning. It’s 11:30.
I realize I am naked. I realize I am alone—my suitemates probably left the apartment to start their respective days hours ago. I also realize that I forgot to do my laundry last night; my pillowcase has been smudged with foundation and eyebrow pomade for days.
“I could grab a bagel,” I think to myself. I fish my phone from under the covers and begin texting a friend. And then—
Oh, fuck. I hung out with her last night. Would it be acceptable for me to ask to hang out with her again, or would it just be redundant and weird? I realize I should probably text someone else. But there’s no one else to text, really. My suitemates? They see enough of me as it is. I could reach out to her, her, him, her, him—but, no. That would really be weird. Those people haven’t heard from me in months.
I realize I haven’t heard from them in months, either. So maybe it’s not entirely my fault.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when an academic writes, “To conclude…,” and then proceeds to drag the paper on for another seven pages. This is what senior spring feels like: a volley of roundabout, unnecessary, anticlimactic, pedantic, and painful concluding remarks.
I know what you’re thinking: “Paulina, your senior spring only feels pointless and lonely because you’re not reaching out to people enough!” Reader, you’re absolutely right. But to you, I say: The problem isn’t me—it’s college.
Now that I’m a second-semester senior, I’ve given up on my extracurricular responsibilities to focus on my senior thesis projects and finding a job. In semesters past, my involvement in student groups like Spectator and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month kept me on a strict schedule. Today, I don’t have Spectator or APAHM. I don’t have a completed thesis, or a job, either.
The thing about losing structure is that it makes you discover just how much you relied on it to function properly. Spectator and all of those other obligations were like Blue Apron—they delivered a hefty box of responsibilities, opportunities for socialization, friends, and gossip right to my doorstep every week.
Now, I’m on my own. Now, I have to make the proverbial “trek” down to Trader Joe’s every week. In theory, the freedom is cool because I get to pick out my own bell peppers. This has meant great things for my pasta sauces!
But mostly, the trek sucks.
For most undergraduates, Columbia’s campus is as small as the walk from the Northwest Corner Building to Butler. Barnard’s campus is even smaller. Our friends all live a seven-minute walk away from us, tops, and share our midnight-to-5 a.m. schedules. We’ve been spoiled by these conveniences. Most of us aren’t too great at befriending people who live more than 20 minutes away from us. I’ve recently discovered that I’m not great at maintaining friendships with people who live outside of my suite.
But when I’m lying in bed, spirit flaccid and unmotivated, I don’t even want to think of lighting up the fires of friendship or rekindling the flames of old ones. I don’t want to explain where I’ve been to people. I don’t want to explain where I’m going after graduation. “What’s the point of going through the awkward business of rekindling things,” I tell myself, “when I’m just going to leave this place in six short weeks?”
I just want to lie there naked until I eventually find the energy to get up, brush my teeth, put on some underwear, and steam up some frozen kimchi dumplings.
Six short weeks left, and I think I’d be content to spend them all in bed.
“I think I might start seeing a therapist again,” I told my suitemate, Jenna, a few days ago. I repeated the same sentiment to my boyfriend.
I’ve been in and out of therapy so many times in the past decade that the stigma of it all doesn’t even register in my mind most days. The only thing that’s keeping me out of therapy is six weeks, six weeks, six weeks.
I know that my symptoms have been caused by my worries about entering the so-called “real world” after graduation. In the past, I’ve struggled through fits of anxiety and paranoia because of schoolwork or extracurriculars. Back then, the road forward seemed to stretch so far ahead that I couldn’t even fathom the destination. I didn’t want to suffer for that long. And so, to therapy I went.
But now—six weeks. That’s all that’s left of my undergraduate woes. Then, I’ll be free of academic deadlines and will be grabbing cocktails with my coworkers every Friday instead—that is, if I find a job. Six weeks until graduation means that I might not ever get around to finding a therapist because, well, what would the point of that be?
I want to spend all of these six weeks in bed, even though I know that some Very Important Senior Events are headed my way, like a horde of drunken powder-blue wildebeest. I received an email informing me about Senior Scramble yesterday. Apparently, 40s on 40 is happening soon.
Then there’s Bacchanal—my very last one.
I’ve always found it difficult to get into the spirit of Bacchanal. Every year, my friends and I catch the first half of the opening act and then escape to Brooklyn for the rest of the day, where we purchase donuts from Dun-Well Donuts. I always try to get a sweet almond one—they go great with the lingering, cloying taste of Malibu.
The finality of this year’s Bacchanal—the fact that it’s my very last one—makes me even less inclined to go all out for it. People are expecting me to really let my hair down this time around. But, um, no. My hair is greasy and unwashed and perfectly content to stay in its half-bun, thank you very much.
When I was a first-semester senior, I fantasized about my senior spring: no Spec, practically no classes, an engaging internship, and oodles of free time to go to yoga or journal or learn how to bake a Dutch baby. I envisioned myself patronizing hip bars and doing my (minimal!) homework at darling cafés. I saw myself making memories that I hadn’t been able to make as a first-year, sophomore, and junior because I was too busy, well, preparing for senior year.
I’m actually really into yoga now. The rest of all that, though? I’m not so sure.
The truth about senior spring is that it’s never easy. Sure, the archetypal senior tends to take a lighter course load and conduct research on strangely specific topics that only a mother could pretend to find interesting. This frees up a lot of time. But simply having time does not mean that it will be spent productively.
Take me, for example. I’ve spent a lot of my senior spring lying in bed.
This is how most of my Sunday mornings have started this semester. There I am, drowsy and nude, shoving my face into my pillow. I turn on my phone, and my calendar app refreshes and switches over to the next week. From the comfort of my twin XL mattress, I’ve watched the number of days till graduation dwindle down to double digits.
I know I’m ready to graduate because I can’t seem to stomach food anymore. This isn’t because the food at Columbia is bad—on the contrary, it’s uniformly decent, and I don’t really understand people who complain ad nauseum about the dining options around these parts. Instead, it’s because I’m so tired of falafel and rice from the 116th halal cart and udon from M2M and foccacia sandwiches from Milano’s and “a Shroomami, but with tomatoes instead of beets, please!” from Sweetgreen.
I know I’m ready to graduate because whenever I eat bagels from Nussbaum & Wu, I’m hungry again in five minutes—I’ve spent four years memorizing their flavor and texture. My body doesn’t even notice when I eat one anymore.
Most weekends, I never end up securing a bagel buddy. So I stop by Nussbaum to grab a bagel solo. That’s when I get really sad. Nussbaum bagels used to bring me so much joy (they’re shaped like tiny hugs made up of densely-packed carbs and fun cream cheese flavors, you know). Now, I think the lady who works the cash register recognizes me whenever I stop by, hair frizzy and glasses foggy from the humidity of the shop. We communicate with our eyebrows.
“Oh,” her eyebrows seem to say. “You’re still here?”
“I know, right?” my eyebrows wiggle right back.
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