Avoiding the Sophomore Slump, from Someone Who Experienced It

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Avoiding the Sophomore Slump, from Someone Who Experienced It – NextGen Journal.

My first two years at Loyola Marymount University were exactly the opposite of what you’d expect: I thrived in my freshman year, but just survived my sophomore year. While there were plenty of factors that went into that, some far beyond what an incoming sophomore might typically face, there were definitely some growing pains that almost every student can take care to avoid. So here are the best three bits of advice I would want to impart to any students entering their second year looking to avoid that sophomore slump.

1. Be flexible in your friendships

Not every person you forged a friendship with last year is going to remain a friend the next year. This is, of course, a recurring theme in every year of life, but it’s especially prominent when coming off your freshman year. People grow and change significantly in college, and often, that growth in your sophomore year can send people you once felt very close to in a completely different direction. If you’re feeling that separation growing and you think it’s not a momentary bump in the road but rather indicative of a greater trend, don’t fight it. Roll with it. Make peace with it. But most importantly, don’t let it impair you from making new friendships.

Believe it or not, you didn’t meet everyone worth their salt in one year. Even on the smallest college campuses, there are always more people to meet and get to know. You won’t like all of them, of course, but many of them you will. Some you’ll even love. Some will likely even surpass your freshman friends in how close you get to them. College is a four-year experience for a reason. Speaking of which…

2. Don’t waste your time

Guess what? You’re done with 25 percent of your four-year college career! Doesn’t it feel like it was just yesterday that you were moving in for your freshman year? Well, rest assured, sophomore year goes even faster, and at the end, you’re left wondering, ‘Where did half my college career go?’ It’s a feeling somewhat akin to getting punched in the stomach.

There’s no time to waste a single moment. No matter what school you go to, what you’re involved in or what you’re studying, you’ve got to seize the moment and do things you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t blow off your work, but also don’t let it be an impediment to doing what you want to do. You’ve got a limited amount of time, so use it well!

3. Find your passion

Most colleges require a declaration of major by the end of sophomore year, so there’s no better time to start figuring out what you want to do with your life. What classes have you taken that interested you? Continue learning about what inspires and drives you, and find career opportunities within that area. Be ready for every shift in the winds – even if you’re majoring in something else (say, screenwriting) but you’re given an incredible opportunity (say, the Arts & Entertainment Editor position at your campus paper) that launches you in a totally different direction (say, towards journalism – not that I’m taking all these examples from anywhere in particular, no sir).

Last year taught me that you can never be quite sure of where you’re going to end up, especially in college. Think of sophomore year as a transition year on a television show. The cast may change some and there may be a new theme, but you’re invested, and you’re not gonna bail any time soon. The only thing you can do is brace for what’s to come and watch what happens.

Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian – NextGen Journal.

Since the Olympics ended just eight days ago, the conversation in most press circles (especially here atNextGen Journal) has been thoroughly transfixed on one particular Ryan. The resulting media circus has left almost no room to discuss another high-profile Ryan; that is, the gold medalist Olympian-turned-90210 guest starRyan Lochte.

While debating Paul Ryan’s Medicare position, his Ayn Rand-inspired launch into politics, or his lack of necktie at the VP announcement for the umpteenth time sounds like a load of laughs first thing on a Monday morning, I’d much rather focus on Lochte, the swimmer known more for his reputation out of the pool than in it. Lochte has drawn considerable criticism on the Internet both in and out of the games, and his desire to make a career in Hollywood has only increased the volume of the ire.

Most of the criticism is based around Lochte’s personality: He’s not exactly Mensa’s next top recruit, to say the least, and is widely ridiculed for his exclamations of “jeah” (which, as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan so brilliantly put it, is “like ‘yeah,’ but said in a way that indicates you may have difficulty pronouncing the ‘y’ sound and could benefit from working with a professional speech therapist”). He even says it in his aforementioned upcoming appearance on 90210, for which he is shirtless the entire time. You can’t say the man doesn’t know his audience.

His own mother thinks he has one-night stands. He’s been declared America’s Sexiest Douchebag. And he wears an absolutely ridiculous American flag grill. Lochte is, in many ways, the court jester of the Olympics: hilarious, but utterly harmless. So why does he get under our skin so easily?

Particularly in America, we elevate our Olympians into the realm of superheroes. They compete at the greatest level of athleticism and we worship them for it. Even the Olympians who screw up –think Michael Phelps and the bong – we forgive, because they’re the best we have. An Olympian who doesn’t stand up to our high standards and expectations is almost a does-not-compute situation: how can such a thing be?

So Lochte, who doesn’t give good interview sound bites, wouldn’t be the conventional choice to bring home to Mom, and is unapologetic about it all, defies the Olympic standard. The big question is: so what? Why should he have to be the idealized Olympian? His job is to swim well and represent our country, and he did that with aplomb. He was a gold medalist for Team USA, and what he does after that has nothing to do with him as an Olympian and everything to do with him as Ryan Lochte.

Not every athlete who competes at the Olympics is going to be a role model. Some of them are going to do stupid things not because they’re screw-ups, but because they’re human – a fact we often forget when thinking about our Olympic heroes. Lochte is making clear through his words and actions exactly the kind of man he is, and frankly, I applaud him for it. If he was attempting to project himself as something he’s not, that would be far more insulting to us as an American people. He’s comfortable with who he is, and as such, we should be comfortable with who he is, too.

Plus, if his career in Hollywood leads to more hilarious quotes like “Memorizing lines and trying to like say them and still do movement, that was hard,” I simply cannot wait for what he does next.