Senioritis. The phenomena of the student finishing her education without the same zeal with which
she began. The frenzy of perfect papers, the diligent studying, the upkeep and enthusiasm for the reading, all seem to be slipping away. There she sits. The senior. All that matters is getting things done, and a lot of time is spent planning and praying, dreaming and worrying, about the future.
But what does she miss out on? This phenomena is referred to as an illness after all.
College is the unique occasion where people are not living intergenerationally. One age group is living all together in a mass amount. Never again will a cafeteria exist where I can walk in and find people of the same age. Not only this, but the reason all of us are together is education. Maybe I’m an idealist, and maybe it’s true that it’s not only the senior who slacks in studying, but the potential for great meetings among friends with intellectual passion and care for life is a reality in college. It is of great value to me, and a reason many of us have discovered that this college debt is worth it.
The sufferer of senioritis misses the glory of the college culture.
You may object and say that the senioritis patient does see and experience the glory of all the people around her. In fact, this is who she spends most of her time with instead of her studies.
I say she is still missing out on the college culture because she is not really making herself a part of it. Being part of the culture means she has taken on the role of the student. The time given to study makes the time with friends all the more meaningful. She has material for some good conversation and a sense of dignity found in work which carries over to friendship.
The sufferer of senioritis also misses out on the last minutes of the game. The final home stretch. The growth in perseverance which does one well for any next stage of life. Finishing out strong builds strong character.
Why is senioritis so real? I don’t think the solution is just to pull up our bootstraps and hit the books. I think the first is a little understanding. The main motivating factor has been stripped from the senior. She has a job, or is in the process and she now faces her days with the question, “besides a future job, why did I chose to study this?” By answering this question the senior can begin fall in love with her studies again. This will help, but this illness runs deep and so will my prescription.
Gratitude and the religious sense.
In the Art of Living by Dietrich Von Hildebrand, he describes the ungrateful person as “the person who remains on the periphery and takes everything for granted” (1). How easy is this to do as a senior. “I’ve worked so hard.” “My job isn’t hinging on this.” “I’m about to be separated from my friends.” With these thoughts, we’re taken from the vital center of our reality and placed on the periphery of our daily life.
Gratitude for our work, friends, and the knowledge gained will help, but a religious sense that all these things are given to us by something or someone greater will take us back to the vital center of our reality. It will help us love “the daily” again. “The daily” which our senioritis has taken us out of. “The daily” grind of our studies, relationships, work, and responsibilities which gives meaning to our lives.
At many points in our life we will need this experience of renewed religious gratitude for the daily. This healing brings transformation and rebirth. At many points we will face the symptoms of senioritis and be left without momentum for present life circumstances; right before we get married, transfers jobs, or move to a new town. Responding in these times with a renewed transcendent gratitude will cultivate in us a strong sense of what it means to be a person. When we hit midlife and there seems to be nothing on the horizon but a mysterious unknown, we must allow our personhood to become so intertwined with transcendent gratitude that only goodness and rebirth will flow forth from our sufferings. Edith Stein wrote a beautiful prayer on this rebirth after her own midlife crisis:
“Lord, is it possible that someone who is past
Midlife can be reborn?
You said so, and for me it was fulfilled,
A long life’s burden of guilt and suffering
Fell away from me.
Erect I receive the white cloak,
Which they place round my shoulders,
Radiant image of purity!
In my hand I hold a candle.
Its flame makes known
That deep within me glows Your holy life” (2)
The senior needs a rebirth, possibly her first, from the guilt and suffering of a life that doesn’t seem prepared for the future. The senior, through a religious gratitude, finds this rebirth. She is moved from her weaknesses to the givenness of her life. She can enter fully into the college culture, come to love her studies again, and finish the race.
(1) Hildebrand, Dietrich. The Art of Living
(2) Stein, Edith. Edith Stein Selected Writings, 61. Translated by Susanne M. Batzdorff.