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Dear orgo students

| Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dear organic chemistry students,

Ah, yes. The fated science class. The cursed course. The ol’ CHEM 10172: organic chemistry. If you’ve had your ear even remotely close to the ground, at this point you’ve undoubtedly heard that organic chemistry is supposedly the end of your existence. Before you start burrowing away, stocking up on Grab ’n Go cereal so you can hole up in the library, though, take a breath. Everything will be just fine.

First thing’s first, I find it necessary for us to put this course into perspective. This class is worth four credits. Not 10. Not 100. Not even five. Four. Measly. Credits. In the grand span of your four years heck, in the grand span of your semester, it will not impact your GPA heavily. Take it from someone who nearly realized too late last semester, ignoring your other classes so you can focus all of your energy into push arrow diagrams and Grignard reactions is not the answer. Maybe you think your art elective is easy or your Spanish class isn’t as “important,” but you’ll feel doubly bad if you let these classes you believe you can do well in fall to the wayside. While I wouldn’t recommend throwing your textbook in the trash, remember that your other classes matter too.

Second of all, stop announcing to the world when your tests are! This would be in all caps if I didn’t already know the copy editors would just change it to lowercase. There is no other class at Notre Dame for which the entire student body knows the exam schedule. Does your entire dorm know when the computer science major in your section has a test? No. Does your anthropology major roommate stop showering for a week when they have an exam coming up? No. Does your marketing major bestie leave a trail of banana peels knowing her quadmates will understand she was in the throes of studying consumer behavior? No. I’ll be the first to admit orgo was really hard, but I’ll also be the first to recognize other people are also taking really difficult classes, and, for all I know, orgo could be a breeze compared to accounting. Everyone has their own stuff they are dealing with. Their own personal organic chemistry. Pre-med students just complain more.

Which brings me to my next point, don’t let orgo become an excuse. An excuse to be a bad roommate. An excuse to neglect other things important to you. An excuse to not have fun. Don’t waste the semester waiting for a future when you have time; make time now. Put up your decorations while there’s still time left to enjoy them! Go to that performance you’ve been excited for! Make time to exercise! If you’re busy, schedule meals with pals! Do your laundry!!! That last one deserves multiple exclamation points: No one is a better student without clean socks. College is too short to waste time feeling miserable when you have a genuine opportunity to make life better.

And finally, at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I want to emphasize that the best way to make it through is to just stop talking about it. All. The Time. As I’ve already said more than once in this column, orgo is indeed a really, really hard class. But it’s a lot harder if you go into it with a bad attitude. It’s a lot harder if everyone around you is creating a culture of negativity. Normalizing a range of emotions is important, but complaining for the sake of complaining or worse, for the sake of bragging about your martyrdom is not. If we make the baseline for working hard being miserable, we create a culture where people think that being unhappy is normal, a symptom of success. Or worse, a culture that drowns out and minimizes the voices of people who are actually struggling. That writes off the people who genuinely need help — academically or emotionally — as part of the organic chemistry drama.

Instead, I urge you, oh fated organic chemistry students, to appreciate the hidden joys. To revel in the camaraderie the shared struggle brings, as complete strangers share pencils and offer knowing shakes of the head when your professor discusses stereochemistry. Before an exam, ask the kid sitting next to you for a stick of gum, and he might just offer his whole pack! Smile at how wonderfully kind the smart girl in your dorm study room is when she stays up an extra hour explaining how to differentiate elimination and substitution reactions to you. Appreciate the frantic 1 a.m. texts, answer the questions you can and don’t be afraid to send your own queries, too. Share your study materials, recognizing you’re all on the same team. Others’ success does not detract from your own. Enjoy those few days before an exam when you’ve put in the work and finally understand what’s going on. Exams were always my favorite time in the semester because, even though they were tough and frustrating and stressful, I loved the sweet relief right after. I loved knowing any of my lab partners would be happy to help me if I needed them. I loved seeing a kid in the library with their solutions manual and giving them a commiserative nod. Enjoy the giggles in the study rooms, the nights you get off track, the days you shut your textbooks. Enjoy your semester because you chose this. Before you know it, you may even find yourself smiling.

Julianna Conley loves cereal, her home state of California and the em dash. A sophomore in Pasquerilla East, if Julianna can’t be found picnicking on North Quad, she can be reached for comment at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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