Friday 5:30 pm
The decision is made to study off campus for an organic chemistry exam. The goal is to avoid as much student contact and social influence as possible.
Okay, yeah I can do this. I’m gonna treat myself to a nice dinner and take pride in being friendless and anti-social on a Friday night.
Just finished off the last lick of broccoli cheddar soup at the local Panera.
Okay, this isn’t so bad. There are still humans in the vicinity. Good job, Olivia. I’m proud of you. You don’t need a party to reinforce your self-esteem. No, that’s silly.
The sun starts to set. The prime-time wave of customers is beginning to die down.
Man, it’s still not dark yet? How long have I been here? (checks phone) Only an hour are you kidding?
The restaurant begins to clear out. I’m left sitting surrounded by empty tables and ink filled sheets of organic molecules.
Definitely in the home stretch. My roommates have most likely started partying. There’s no way I can go home now. I won’t let them sway me. I’ve just got to push through ‘til close.
Significant amounts of zoning out have started to ensue over the pages of my textbook. Alcohols, ethers, various dehydration reactions become stained in the black behind my eyelids. They haunt me. Only a worker is left clearing off the remaining tables. Just me, him, and the remnants of my dignity.
I park the car and begin the cold walk to my apartment. My eyes are bloodshot from staring at practice problems for too long. My hair is slicked back in a greasy ponytail. No one should see me like this. I hang my head low as I try to block out the flocks of freshly intoxicated 20-somethings. I know they see me (and the backpack), but they, seemingly uncomfortable, look away. I hear faint whispers as I power walk out in front of them, fragments of comments like “That sucks” and “wouldn’t want to be her”. I make eye contact with one of my friends heading to bars and she reveals a pitiful frown. I quickly avert my gaze.
As I walk up to my apartment door all of my roommates simultaneously pile out the door and give a tipsy hello. They ask me where I’ve been and snicker at my disheveled state.
I give a pained “’I have an orgo exam Monday.” This is followed by sugar-coated sympathy from the perfumed and perfectly put together crowd. I wave them on, wishing them a night of fun and slug inside. My backpack is so full with textbooks it has me bent over like I’m Quasimodo. I guess this is the pre-med walk of shame… the lonely walk back to my room in a now silent apartment. There’s no smiling, no laughter except maybe an imaginary echo coming from the practice exam that mocks me inside my backpack. The only libations that I’ll be hangin’ with tonight is the reactions I work out involving CH3CH2OH.
But no, I shouldn’t think like this.
No, no. These are the nights I have to push through so that one day, every day, I can live my dream. For that, Friday nights are a small price to pay. With my future in sight I straighten up, feeling the weight of my GPA on my shoulders. Suddenly, my walk of shame becomes what I like to call the “stride of pride”- and when my head hits the pillow at 1:39 am, I’m not embarrassed one bit.
About Olivia Lacny
Olivia is in her third year at the University of Virginia. She is majoring in Psychology and is very involved in activities on campus. Not only is she an active member of Kappa Delta sorority, but also is involved in the Peer Health Education program, a selective and competitive club at UVA that educates other organizations and student groups on campus about college-related issues such as nutrition, drugs/ alcohol, sexual health, and mental health. She, along with a few fellow students, launched a chapter at UVA for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of which she is President.