The suck-it-up culture

I’m stressed about what my grades will be, stressed about the assignments I have to do, burned out from the assignments I have done, and now I can’t see the end anymore.

The physical pattern recurs weekly, and the emotional pattern cycles perhaps once every two weeks.

Monday is already a stressful day. From 7am to 6pm, I’m doing something every other hour:

  1. Calculus at 9 am. The class is fine, but sometimes the professor talks about something particularly irrelevant, such as when he was talking about computing a Fourier series (never appeared on any test or homework), or when he goes over an example that takes half the class time and an entire page of my notes. It’s often burdening to think about what the next homework might be, since he always pulls the material from the week’s lectures.
  2. Wait an hour. I usually go to the computer science building.
  3. A discussion session with the discrete math TA. It’s a little difficult to understand his relatively thick accent, and he can often be very direct, saying “this is wrong” and putting an “X” on whatever we commanded for him to write on the board as an answer to a problem.
  4. Wait an hour. Run for lunch if the situation does not seem too grim.
  5. Computer science/data structures. This is probably my favorite class; the lecturer is very energetic. Time goes very fast.
  6. Wait an hour.
  7. A discussion session with the computer science TA. We take a short quiz, and then he goes over it and I must watch myself painfully get humiliated if his answer didn’t look like mine. When this happens, I often get stressed for the rest of the day and think about how I’m paying money to humiliate myself.
  8. Wait an hour.
  9. Bible study with three other people. The only reason I signed up for this is because they happened to ask me upfront if I wanted to do a bible study, as I was passing through a specific area of the campus at a specific time on the first week of class. Had I not passed through this area on the first week, I’d probably never have signed up.
  10. Wait an hour.
  11. Eat dinner.
  12. Do homework for an hour.
  13. Shower.
  14. Do more homework for an hour or two.
  15. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Tuesday and Thursday are not supposed to be very stressful, but there are certain caveats:

  1. Calculus discussion session at 8:30 am, in an administrative building on the far end of campus. On Thursday, there is a quiz, but it’s only graded every other week. The quiz is also easy if the homework was done correctly, and only sometimes does the TA go over the quiz (sparing me from any immediate regret).
  2. Immediately once the session is done, go to the bench outside the room, open my laptop, hope it has battery, and load the online theater class’s video stream. There is a quiz every single day, but it is only five questions. However, I dislike the class for other reasons: first, people keep asking dumb questions whose answers they could so easily find on the syllabus; and second, there is absolutely no time to go anywhere else to listen to the class. There is some kind of TA-led lab that wheels in, and around ten minutes before the end of my online class, they first make a hydrogen explosion, and then they try to do some kind of hydrogen bonding experiment that makes water.
  3. Eat lunch. I only have an hour.
  4. Go to the discrete math class. There is always a danger present of the professor not coming in, and instead the TAs taking over and giving us a pop quiz projected on-screen. They always go over this quiz; they have not even graded the previous one, but I’m sure I did terribly.
  5. If it’s a Tuesday:
    1. Do homework for two and a half hours.
    2. Go to the supplemental instruction session for the data structures class. Only four or five people go, and of them, usually only I am the one who speaks up.
  6. If it’s a Thursday:
    1. Do homework for an hour or so.
    2. Go to a certain required meeting. It’s basically a small group of CS freshmen led by an upperclassman who is not only in honors, but also seems to excel in many different ways, such as the sheer number of internships and prominent places he’s worked at, the fact that he belongs to not one, but two honors organizations, and the fact that he has been double-majoring.
  7. Do homework for an hour.
  8. Eat dinner.
  9. If it’s a Tuesday:
    1. Do homework for an hour.
    2. Shower.
    3. Do more homework for an hour or two.
  10. If it’s a Thursday:
    1. Go to a meeting for a working group.
  11. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Wednesday is a royal pain in the butt:

  1. Calculus at 9 AM.
  2. Run over to a certain kind of group about improving social interactions. It’s annoying because I don’t want to monopolize the conversation, but no one seems to speak up so easily.
  3. Eat lunch. Wait an hour.
  4. Data structures class.
  5. Counseling session to address my horrid life.
  6. Homework for a few hours.
  7. Dinner.
  8. Retreat group meeting. Technically I can’t volunteer in the retreats themselves because I’m not eighteen yet, but the let me in the meetings anyway because they are nice people.
  9. Do last-minute homework.
  10. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Counseling doesn’t really help with my social and academic anxiety. Many times, it’s just many “mmm”s in agreement with my sentiments, but little advice is given.

Sometimes, he suggests me to exercise, but there’s something tangled in my brain when it comes to exercise:
I don’t want to go to a gym because there are people more masculine than me who go into the weight rooms and lift a hundred pounds. I would be humiliated if I was next to these people: “Oh, I just want to take two 15 lb weights.” “That’s it?! You go to this big gym just to lift 30 pounds? Man up, man! I’m giving you 50 on bench press!”
In terms of running, I don’t have actual running shoes, and my legs already hurt from walking around everywhere all day, every day.
In terms of cycling, I kind of want to do it, but I have no usable bicycle, and it wouldn’t be possible for me to get one without plunging further into debt. (There is an official bike auction on Wednesday evening, but I have an exam at that time!) And then after I buy the bike, how do I know I even like riding a bike, or that it was actually a good fit for me or not? Once I put money in, I can’t back out.
And there is something more about this masculine expectation. I’ve tried getting it off my head for years, but it is futile. I abhor gym shorts and wish I could wear those temptingly comfortable leggings. It is such an embarrassing topic that I don’t ever discuss it with anyone. If I could just go into a store, yes, the part they designate the “women’s section,” at the least popular time of the store, and buy a pair or two of size-11 leggings and wear them in my room, maybe I could feel better about my body. I also would be able to flex and cross my legs very easily. I have also considered buying online, but the order would be easily traceable by my parents if it happened to come from Amazon.

My parents also don’t give many suggestions either. My father thinks it is easy and says, “Just talk to people!” But I can’t! I’m scared of initiating a conversation with random strangers!

The Web doesn’t give many concrete answers either. If anything, I’m scared of failing my classes. My worst nightmare is doing everything in the world to complete an assignment to perfection, then a tiny yet fatal mistake after submission bringing it all crashing down. The people who bother answering the questions only say, “Oh, it’s okay to fail; in fact, failing is often the best route,” and talk about how they failed a number of classes, dropped out of college and came back, or took six years to complete college. No, it’s not okay to fail. What about the people who don’t complete college in 6 years and instead complete it in three? What did they do to accomplish that? Did they murder themselves in study to accomplish that, or were they just naturally smart and talented people? Of course GPA matters, don’t downplay its importance.

The entire attitude of everything in college boils down to “suck it up.”
You get a bad grade, don’t even bother asking it for it to be changed. Suck it up and do better next time.
You fail a class, suck it up and take it again.
You get a loud, disorganized roommate who sleeps for more than twelve hours and breaths obnoxiously through his mouth, suck it up and live through it the whole year.
You don’t have enough money on your meal plan to make it through the year, suck it up, get a job, buy groceries, or go to more club meetings.
Your laptop sucks, suck it up and get another one.
You’re sad, suck it up, keep on living, and do your homework.
You have no free time, suck it up and work harder.
You have no friends, suck it up and talk to people.
You fail, suck it up and keep failing harder.

In high school, I felt stable because it was fairly obvious when people consciously ignored me. In college, I feel unstable because the root cause for not having any social relations is none other than myself. It’s all my fault.

As for sex drive, it is almost completely gone. Sex and kissing look to be gross activities, even if I imagine doing them myself. Yes, I’d be very interested in a relationship with someone of the other gender, but not for sex. And just because I’m already in that rabbit hole, I have absolutely no interest in drugs, either, because I have read that they give a euphoria that cannot be matched by anything in life; essentially, they are not for mortal human beings. Besides, I want a happiness, satisfaction, and grace that I actually deserve. And alcohol seems like an absolutely pointless social ritual, designed to intoxicate the brain into trying to arouse “fun times” out of the person, despite the humdrum daily life of endless work.

At this point, I feel incarcerated by a cruel world, with the key to the cell held by none other than my clever self on the other side.

EDIT: This is not to say that I do not have happy moments in my life. Indeed, I do, and often I deceive myself through omission in order to try to bring a story of problems that makes more sense to people. On discussing paying for counseling visits, my father admitted to me that neglecting to nurture our social lives as we grew up was a parenting failure on his part. I also still play with my brother, and he still coerces me into doing things with him. However, the number of flashbacks that I get daily has been increasing. It is not so common during classes, but it is very common around meal times and during free time.

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