Life at Rock Bottom

All college is hard, but some college is harder than others.

By Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


It’s no secret that throughout your years at university, you’re likely to have some low points.

With increased independence and responsibility comes far more opportunities to trip, stumble and generally fuck up. You’ll have moments when you feel far more like a bewildered child than a well-adjusted adult. Fortunately, these are often new experiences that build character and are also usually pretty funny in hindsight.

Whether it’s getting food poisoning from the dining hall, spending 20 minutes scouring the community fridge in your dorm only to bitterly conclude that some crusty douchebasket stole your lasagna, or simply being too poor and unorganized to keep a stocked kitchen, I think it’s safe to say that many undergraduate tribulations revolve around food (or lack thereof).

The Various Types Of Rock Bottom That You’ll Hit In College

Image via Spongebob Squarepants

A good friend of mine was once so low on money in the last few weeks of a semester that all she ate for lunch and dinner during that time was microwaved potatoes. Once, during a particularly strenuous bout of midterms, I went to make some dinner and discovered that all I had to work with was exactly three pieces of stale bread and a handful of spinach that was already starting to get a touch of that smell. I might have tried to go to the grocery store if it hadn’t been snowing and I also hadn’t misplaced my wallet that contained both my buss pass and money. Nearly every college student has at least one story like this.

In these moments, you’ll have luxurious visions of the meals that your parents make at home. The dependable, nutritionally balanced feasts that you likely took for granted all those years.

Continuing on the topic of depressing college food moments, there’s a story that my mom told me that I like to remember when I’m feeling especially pathetic about something. I call it The Corn Nut Story. When my mom was an undergrad, she couldn’t afford to live on her own and consequently commuted from home.

Essentially, she’d get to campus at 6:30am when my grandma dropped her off on her way to work in the morning, and then have stay there until about 5PM when her ride returned. Often not having time to pack a lunch, my mom would sustain herself on whatever a dollar or two could buy her on campus. One day, she only had enough money to get a single bag of Corn Nuts from a vending machine. At the last possible moment, the Corn Nuts snagged on the metal spiral and refused to budge, no matter how much she tried to kick and shake them free. She ended up crying in defeat.

This vintage account of student gloom ties nicely into another type of low that you’ll likely experience on several occasions during your time at university: the mental break down. It’s the occasion when all of the stress and frustration that’s been piling up all semester finally spills all over the place, typically in an embarrassing fashion. This variety of rock bottom experience is special in that it can be prompted by so many aspects of student life, including grades, being broke and the pressure to figure out the rest of your life. Unless you’re an incredibly resilient super person, you’ll probably find yourself irrationally blubbering about some aspect of your life as a student at least once. Bonus points if it’s in public and a bunch of strangers see you.

Speaking of crying, the end of a relationship is ripe with potential for a period of personal decline. It’s easy to fall into a spiral of negative thought if you’re already in an emotional downswing. I won’t spend time discussing that though, because Daniel Wilcox already did.

College can get really lonely, even if you haven’t been recently been broken up with. When I asked my roommate about what he would consider to be his ultimate college rock bottom hour, he told me that it would have to be the moment his freshman year in which he realized that he was the odd one out on his floor—the one kid who didn’t quite mesh the way that everyone else seemed to so easily. Another friend of mine has admitted that she initially bought her cat in large because she felt intensely lonesome in her studio apartment.

While social rock bottom may hit individual students in different ways, severe sleep deprivation is a far more universal kind of low point.

One of my favorite things to do at school is walk into the student union in the middle of the day and count how many people are sleeping.

There are the all-nighters and inappropriately times naps that can leave you feeling like human garbage, as well as the corresponding coping mechanisms that might just make you feel even worse.

For example, after spending the wee hours of the morning unsuccessfully cramming for an exam, you may find it necessary to take your coffee in the shower with you. You’re greasy and exhausted, but higher education stops for nothing. Compared to a shower beer, shower coffee leaves you feeling less lit and more like a gremlin.

While “rock bottom” experiences are, by definition, pretty unpleasant, there’s some comfort to be taken in knowing things can only go up from there. There are also several ways that you can make that journey back up more bearable. The method that I’ve found to be the most enjoyable and efficient is to look at your crappy situation through a lens of humor. Although your circumstances might not have been at all funny in the moment, they almost always have the potential to be in hindsight.

Of course, some experiences will require more time than others. For instance, there was a brief bit of time from my sophomore year that I’d consider to be one of the lowest lows of my short life. I’m at the point where I can reflect on it and chuckle—I’m just not sure if I’m cool with other people laughing at me about it quite yet. I’m sure I’ll get to that point soon, or perhaps something else will happen in my last year of college that will be crappy enough to replace it.

While laughing is always a good cure for a sour mood, sometimes it can be equally as gratifying to indulge in anger (as long as it’s not a regular thing). If that’s the case, I’d recommend treating yourself to a therapeutic hour of what my roommate Emily and I like to call: Bitchin’ in the Kitchen’. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes, throwing a little shade here and there is all your soul needs.

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