Oct 02 2013

“Sex, Drugs and Higher Learning” (Title by Kenny Williams)

Filed under Blog Posts

I paused right before I entered the bathroom.  It was a Saturday or Sunday.  Pretty much the same day because I had no clue how this trip to the bathroom would result.  If it was a Saturday morning then that meant Friday was the night before and if it was a Sunday then Saturday night had just ended.  Before I opened the door, I prepared myself for whatever the night held (I lived on an active floor freshman year to say the least).

Some days it was shattered glass scattered across the ground.  I considered myself lucky when the bathroom stall door was on the floor instead the hinge because I wouldn’t have to walk directly on the casual (Peep the word choice, its intentional I promise) vomit that missed any sort of receptacle for the aforementioned vomit. However, once you saw it you took a deep breath and kept it pushing. So what? It didn’t matter! Acknowledge and move on.  Aren’t you supposed to party in College?

Pause. Let’s think about that. Why are you here?  You might be at college to learn how to write.  Maybe you want to analyze classic literature (Old dead White men).  Maybe you want to meet people and network.  It might have dawned on you that maybe, just maybe, possibly, you are here to learn a language, study abroad, and or overwhelm yourself with academics and extra curricular activities. At Midd you will get an opportunity to do all of the above and even more! But, what we really spend four years at Midd doing is learning how to cope. That’s right. Something useful. We are exploring coping methods and sometimes we never actually learn healthy coping methods for high stress environments similar to the series that Middlebury College produces.

Yes, we go to school in the middle of nowhere. Yes we get a ton of reading and even more difficult assignments.  Some of us add on a sport and extracurricular activities so when it comes to the end of the week, all we want is a distraction in the middle of a veiled bubble. Middlebury culture is not real life (sorry freshman!). We subconsciously adapt to this by using coping methods that are,

  1. socially embraced/acceptable or
  2. unhealthy.

Sometimes both options combine.

Drinking and Partying (let’s throw in a focus on sexual relationships somewhere in there) are topics that could be their own blog post and they probably will be but what we need to acknowledge is that binge drinking and partying are normative coping methods for Midd kids.  Not only do students use binge drinking and partying to cope and distract themselves, but the community also plays a part by welcoming these things.  In fact, Midd has a way of making someone feel alienated if he or she is not taking part in the common coping methods. “You’re not going out tonight? You don’t like drinking?”  The words themselves do not hold much weight but the shocked face asking the questions tells you just how odd you are.

(I am not saying we shouldn’t party or drink.  I am however, saying that we need to find more positive ways to distract ourselves. Drinking and partying, used properly, can produce positive experiences but I do not think Midd an environment in which that scenario can exist.  It is easy to do as the mass does and not think twice about it.)

Our weekly routine can become self-destructive and unhealthy. I did not realize until a week ago that I have stumbled upon healthy coping methods at Midd.  I noticed that for some reason I loved 7:30 screenings. No matter how long or how boring, screenings present the opportunity to get away from campus despite their location in Axinn. I am fortunate enough to delve into a new world once or even twice a week. I took my first film course my freshman year and it stuck much like that vomit does to that freshman bathroom floor.  Every semester since, I found myself in screenings for mine and those classes that were not mine. During screenings I could let go of the stress of the paper due in two days and the event I needed to organize. I could let go of the anxiety that comes with being a Middlebury student.

Going to screenings is not enough.  As I got deeper and deeper into my college career, I began to find other coping mechanisms. I started doing things for me. When I felt homesick, I would attempt to re-create some semblance home or home-based activities. These things did not need to be major because as time goes on, you tend to realize the small details make a space into a place (word to Martha Stewart). For example, I would find certain foods that I ate at home but were not necessarily in Ross dining hall and found ways to take part in activities that reminded me of home. Another example: last week I got highly upset and decided I needed to get a haircut.  The incident had nothing to do with my hair but once I got a haircut, I felt refreshed.

Another large section of coping is choosing with whom we surrounded ourselves.  A couple of friends and I organize small activities. Once a week we take a trip to Mickey D’s or purchase food that we eat in our dorms. The point of this activity is that we need to feel like we are away from the everyday routine. Once a semester, this same friend group and I get together and watch movies from our childhood or we’ll even have a ridiculous sleep over in a lounge somewhere. And that’s okay because we are in college. We find sanctuary in having strong personal bonds and noticing that we do not need a pre-game to enjoy ourselves in a tight room. (Yeah I did that on purpose)

While on the one hand, we need to find ways to cope and deal with the stress we put on ourselves at Middlebury, we cannot use these methods to distract ourselves from our responsibilities. I think it is easy to use mediated text to help us cope. Making time for sports or television shows might be highly effective ways to take yourself outside of the Middlebury bubble, but so could leisure reading and writing.  Exploring passions tend to provide us with an escape. But if we need to cope and find distractions might there be something fundamentally wrong with the system and institution itself or is it something we should accept?  We all must find an accurate answer to this on our own.

Editor:  Ola Fadairo, Currently Located in Madrid Spain.  Shout out to the big homie.

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