What happens when the struggle isn’t real?

Photo by Sara Schmitt

I have not struggled to get where I am today. Should I have?

Most people at Tech were top of their classes in high school. Then they came here, where CS 1371 caused them to re-evaluate themselves. Well, if you were in that class exactly five years ago, I was the one who broke the curve on the test (sorry).

When a group of students is asked if they had to overhaul their study habits since high school, everyone always raises their hand, except me. In ninth grade, I started studying less and learning the material during the tests, allowing me to put minimal effort in. That was an absolutely stupid freshman plan, yet I haven’t needed to change it. I am a terrible student but an excellent test-taker.

It worked, but it was specifically designed to not be perfect. I didn’t get straight A’s like my high school friends. I also got a C in a core engineering class and thought I failed the final. I could have done better. When faced with scholarly hardship, though, I would just rather not deal with it.

I graduated summa and have a 4.0 in my fully funded Masters, so is it even bad that I didn’t struggle to do better?

Academically, from Pre-K to my second year of Masters, 19 years of school, I have struggled twice. (I have been challenged in school far more often than that, but I’ve met the challenges head-on only twice.) The first time was when I couldn’t see the chalkboard in kindergarten because I needed glasses, so I stood a foot away from the board as my teacher underlined the first “c” in “Antarctica.” The other time was in Professor Hayes’ INTA 1110 class where my magic math brain could do nothing.

Hayes’ section of Intro to International Affairs is as hard as getting good tech support, and I didn’t have a choice with my schedule. For that class, he maintains the lowest GPA, highest withdrawal rate, and highest number of people I never saw again after he scared them away on day one. I got wrecked in the first weekly quiz, but I am not a quitter, for better or worse. I couldn’t cruise control this course like I eventually could my other 44 at Tech, so I put in the effort. First world problems.

Weekly readings, weekly re-readings, case studies; I even joined study groups as if I was a good student. I probably put a normal amount of effort in, which was a lot for me, and ended up with a B. That B is the proudest I have ever been of a grade. Incidentally, the class also made me care about international affairs.

All of that probably sounds dope, and I can’t lie that I am privileged in that regard. However, that is some weak pathos.

More often than not, low-effort school worked for me; however, academics are not everything. Low-effort friendships, low-effort personal growth and low-effort self-care don’t sound nearly as neat. I can tell you from personal experience that, in fact, none of those are neat.

A low-effort, Ron Swanson friendship is like when you sit next to someone in class every day, never learn their name, and never see them again after the semester. If they flake, it doesn’t ruin your whole day. If they don’t respond to your messages, it’s fine because you don’t even have their number to start with. You’re not invested enough in their life for either of your actions to impact the other.

I love it, but a passive friendship might not be as fulfilling as it could be. Conversely, however, a passive friendship might be better than a relationship where one person is being used. I’m not really sure how to balance those aspects, and I’ve certainly screwed up past friendships by leaning too far in either direction.

Is it worth the struggle to become invested when the other person may not reciprocate?

Magic math brains are nice, but they usually also carry more baggage than a bellhop gets paid to deal with. I have struggled with certain issues for a long time, issues that would make you think twice about stealing my brain. “Struggled” is the wrong word: I haven’t struggled so much as accepted my problems as part of my earthly experience. I’m not sure they need to be.

I’m used to being unwell, being in pain, being a disappointment. C’est la vie. C’est la vie sans effort.

Is it worth struggling to improve yourself if you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable?

Yeah, probably.