The Editor's Soapbox

OK, so I didn’t get an apartment like I wanted to last year. That’s no big surprise. Despite this minor disappointment, I’ve grown quite fond of my living situation. After all, being surrounded by first-year UCSD students isn’t exactly a bad thing. Where else can you find in one place so many people who haven’t yet experienced all our school has (and doesn’t have) to offer? Even after half of a quarter, it’s still nice to see that they are relatively content with their brand-new lives.

Living with freshmen as a sophomore has taught me a lot. I’ve noticed that, for many, the transition from home to dorm has been a smooth one. Unfortunately for others, the shock of living in a completely different environment with strangers, all the while managing a heavy class load, has been a lot more dramatic. It’s precisely this drama that I feel compelled to elaborate on during my rant. Perhaps in the process, a few readers may even find my suggestions on leading a life less turbulent a little helpful. Now, I acknowledge that we all have problems, no matter how old we are. How we deal with our problems, however, makes all the difference. It would be nice to think that as we climb the ladder from freshmen to seniors, our problems would lessen. Alas, this isn’t the case.

Should I be optimistic and say that problems are not bad, and that they make life interesting; in other words, that it’s all about having perspective in a bad situation? Of course it is. Maybe it’s also just a matter of being mature. Let’s not forget that maturity is a relative thing, independent of factors such as age or sex.

My point is that how we deal with our problems has a lot to do with who we are. On one hand, if you’re more level-headed and arguably more mature, you’ll probably deal with emotional problems much better. On the other hand, if you’re really losing your mind, I suggest a more proactive approach in alleviating your madness. It’s true that some deal with their issues productively, whether by means of work, music, art or simply through the most direct approach, which is talking to a person, like a trusted friend, counselor or even a psychologist. The truth is that too many students cope by avoiding their problems or simply acting out their impulses. Whether it is by experimenting with the latest available drug on campus, having promiscuous sex with various partners, or just being over-the-top with their personalities, students often resort to making drastic changes to divert their anxiety.

While I’m all for college being a time of challenging one’s beliefs, trying new things and having a great time, I’m still an advocate of most things in moderation.

It’s one thing for college students to occasionally act like idiots, get drunk or smoke a little weed if they have a grip on their lives and don’t have any serious issues. What’s entirely different is when a person who does those same activities as a means of coping, or perhaps more accurately, fleeing from problems, most of which can be rather severe and repressed.

It’s very impressive to see how bright and ambitious the incoming class of 2004 is. Many have already become good friends of mine. Sadly though, this year’s same pool of bright freshmen are no different than many of the classes that preceded them, at least emotionally speaking. At the risk of sounding overly cynical, they may even be worse off.

With each passing year, competition into higher education is more and more cut-throat. No doubt, the stress levels of this year’s incoming class is at a record high. Many of them already seem burned out, both mentally and physically. College offers them a refreshing change of pace, but by the time fifth week rolls by, all the stresses they thought were gone pay them a familiar visit. It’s important not to forget that school isn’t the only cause of stress in students’ lives, however. There are innumerable other factors. For the majority, growing up is still a pain and remains at the root of emotional problems.

Already, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few students open up to me in deep ways, exposing a side of themselves that they would normally hide from others. Their problems include everything from family abuse to high school alienation. What fascinates me is how so many of these same people with deep-seeded issues are the ones we usually envy.

They are the ones who always seem to get the highest grade on an impossible test or appear to be having the most fun at a party. They are the valedictorians speaking at graduation or the select few who made up the “”in-crowd”” in high school.

In short, we never would expect these sort of people to have problems, but they do. As trite as it sounds, people who are “”successful”” are no more resistant to

emotional suffering than the rest of us who aren’t successful. In one respect, we probably have it easier, for at least we have no qualms about admitting our frailties. The “”successful”” ones, on the other hand, run a much higher risk of damaging their reputations as perfect people. For them, admitting that they have serious problems is almost unthinkable.

So what’s the solution? There are many options, but the common denominator is always common sense. It’s something we all learn about (one would hope) from when we’re little: If you have a problem, talk to someone about it. Bottling it up and pushing it back further and further only perpetuates the problem. Take it from someone who has experienced his share of bad moments, both firsthand and from those closest around him.

Dealing with any emotional problem head-on feels so much better in the long-term than avoiding it for the short-term. In addition, acting out only seems to mask the problem, albeit in a sometimes pleasurable way. The bottom line is being honest with oneself and seeking help to deal with it, if necessary.

For everyone out there who is happy, healthy and content, more power to you. As for everyone else, keep fighting and always remember that you are not alone. I am reminded of what a dear friend once told me. It is something I won’t soon forget. She said, “”We’re all in the same boat, so let’s paddle together.””

Those were wise words, indeed.