It’s exam time at Duke, and I guarantee you, half of your conversations are about to start sounding like this:
“Oh. MY GOD. Life. Is SO. TERRIBLE right now!”
“I know right? I’ve literally had at least one midterm every week since February.”
“I totally feel you! I have two exams next week.”
“UGH I’m actually kinda jealous! I have four exams and a 20-page paper.”
And so on. After claims of unfair professors, terminal illness and demonic possession, someone eventually comes out on top. I mean, it is called “competitive complaining.” If it’s a competition, somebody has to WIN.
Complaintition usually starts with a sudden groan from one of your friends, followed by a lament about how much they have to do this week/semester/lifetime. This is your cue to begin battle. Now each situation is different, but I have a few suggestions for methods that will surely set you ahead of your competitor.
Firstly, for all intents and purposes, you don’t have a social life throughout the course of the argument. Sorry, brah: Shooters does not actually count as an obligation. In the Olympics of competitive complaint, you must act as if your only friends are iPhone games and professors who seem like they’d be fun to hang out with (Professor Noor—call me?).
One-upping is key. If your friend has four papers due in two weeks, say you have five papers due in one week. If he or she is an overloading Trinity student, you’re a pre-med Prattstar with a job. If they’re a bird, you’re a motherf***ing pterodactyl. This ain’t no “Notebook” s**t.
Also, it never hurts to have props. For example, in case someone borrows your computer, have a scholarly article open at all times, with titles that include words like “buckminsterfullerene”and “turdiform” (giggle). Stock your iCal with events so you can physically show people how demanding your life is. So that you look extra busy, remember that in addition to classes and meetings, you need to add time for Facebook, staring off into space and looking at pictures of cats.
You also have to build an image for yourself. Forlorn Facebook statuses about your time spent in the library are a must. “Perkinz4Lyfe!!” “Bostock = Brostock.” “Hittin’ up Club Perk tonight!” Whatever. Just make sure you sound lonely and pathetic. Pity is the goal. Secondary goal is showing people how funny you are even when you’re studying. I would say you could use Twitter to further disseminate your message, but frankly, Twitter is annoying. #Noonecaresaboutyourrandomthoughts.
Your image must be maintained in person as well. Instead of putting books in your backpack, try carrying them around so that everyone knows you take hard classes. I did this all of freshman year with my orgo book in order to appear more intelligent and to try to motivate myself to actually open it. Actual result: orgo book flyswatter.
If everything else fails in a complaint competition, your last option is to abandon all dignity. Crying is optimal, but tearing out your hair or stress vomiting will do as well. Mental breakdowns and dissociative fugues might be taking it a step too far, but hey, it worked for the dude in “A Beautiful Mind.”
But let’s be real here: the best way to win competitive complaining competitions? Chill the f*** out. It’s Duke. To get into a school like this, we all had to be competitive at some point. But when I see all of you Dukies acting like literally EVERYTHING is a competition, it makes me want to evolve into my full form—Charizard, obvi—and Blast Burn some b**ches.
I think that the inclination to try to win at everything comes from an all-encompassing tendency to take life too seriously. It’s easy to get sucked into this mind set, especially for people like us, who spent our lives preparing for an end goal of college that turned out to not be the end goal at all. But that’s the thing. Life is full of goals. Whether your goal is to get the best grades or have the best relationship or the most friends, things get completely reset once we enter the real world. Then, the next goal is to find a good job. And then a good spouse, and then raise good children who get into good schools. Process repeats. There is so much possibility to continue the cycle of constant competition for the unattainable “best,” when you could just sit back and enjoy the ride.
As the end of the year (and possibly your time at Duke) approaches, I know you’ve made amazing friends, created beautiful memories and had remarkable successes. But you don’t have to have won at anything. This year doesn’t have to have been a goal achieved. I think that if you look back on your time spent and have happy memories, you’ve won at absolutely everything.
On that note, I gotta run. I have a thesis to write and a bear ate my laptop. Good luck on your comparatively easy exams!
Lillie Reed is a Trinity sophomore. This is her final installation for the semester of the weekly Socialites column. Follow Lillie on Twitter @LillieReed