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Tea Time: How to combat a caffeine addiction and cope with senior year panic

an advice column

I drink caffeine every day and can't get off of it. What do I do? 

— Anonymous 

School’s back in session, and this feels like a New Year’s resolution. I respect it. I like this question because replace “drink caffeine” with anything, like “juul,” “go out” or “religiously check social media,” and it’s all too relevant. 

There are a few ways to handle caffeine addiction. Some of them are healthier than others. I’d like to preface by saying that this column wasn’t made to give unanimously good or medically sound advice. Consider yourself warned.

The first answer that comes to mind is: Don’t even try. Accept the fact that you’re more dependent on caffeine than you’d like to be. You’re still here, and I assume generally functional, probably more so because of the caffeine, and in the grand scheme, things are fine. Fine as in at least your heart is beating. I can’t conclude further than that. 

Once you’ve accepted your relationship with caffeine, watch Lars Von Trier’s two-part, four-hour-long film “Nymphomaniac.” The film’s about a woman, Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg), who’s addicted to sex. This is the first film that comes to mind when I think about addiction. Lars Von Trier is pretty controversial and extremely artsy. The film’s long, but Shia LaBeouf and Uma Thurman are in it. It’s empowering to watch if you want to be unashamed about constantly desiring something you shouldn’t have. Life’s messy, and that’s okay.

Alternate answer: If you think you’re hurting other people by drinking too much caffeine, maybe it’s time to sacrifice your addiction in the name of love. Watch “Euphoria,” an HBO original that came out this summer. I watched it during O-Week, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve been hooked. I think about it non-stop. I’ve skipped darties for this show.  

“Euphoria” is written, produced and directed by Sam Levinson, who’s openly talked about his history of substance abuse. His personal experiences inspired the show. Zendaya plays 17-year-old Rue, a serial drug abuser. She befriends Jules (played by Hunter Schafer) and is clean for most of the show because of Jules. They’re in a pretty unhealthy, codependent relationship, but hey, Rue stops using. In addition to being a well-written and topical story, “Euphoria” is hip with the kids right now. The people love it. The cinematography, music, makeup and costuming on the show are to die for. 

I’ll end on a practical thought. If you really want to wean yourself off, you have to get up tomorrow morning and muster the conviction not to drink caffeine. Do something you hate every time you have it. Ten push ups, a shot of vodka in the middle of class, a text to your estranged ex. Maybe you’ll develop a Pavlovian aversion. 

Time's running out. I'm gonna be a senior and I want to be in a relationship before I leave Duke. How do I come back for my final year and face my crushes, ex-hook ups, and potential boos? 

Senior Scaries

There’s something really special about being a young person in love. I get why you’d want to be in a relationship in college. I’ve certainly been conditioned to love the idea of love. That sweet amorous feeling is literally everywhere in pop culture. Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes made out for a full 12 seconds in a cafe in San Francisco this summer. Gigi Hadid and Bachelorette runner-up Tyler Cameron were seen “hanging out” in New York just last month.

While I can’t help you find a relationship, as someone who grew up exclusively watching rom-coms, I can help you simulate some of the emotional stages of what could be your senior year love life, through film and television. 

If you’re looking for earnest, fleeting, indie-movie love, you can’t go wrong with Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird.” Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet are in it, and there’s a prom. It’s also set in California, which is a romantic place to live, in my opinion. Gerwig’s relationship to Sacramento is a heartfelt piece of the film, so there’s something to be said about falling in love with a place.

If you’re looking for “Lady Bird”’s slightly cooler sister, watch Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart,” which came out this summer. This one’s more focused on friendly love, which sometimes feels less important than romantic love, but is leagues more rewarding when you need to confide in someone about a crush who’s causing you emotional distress. 

If you’re tired of all the heteronormativity (though “Lady Bird” and “Booksmart” have their moments), watch “Carol” or “Call Me By Your Name”: “Carol” if you’re feeling serious but festive, “Call Me By Your Name” if you want to fall in love in an Italian summertime dreamscape. The four leads in these films are very attractive. 

If you’re looking for a hookup, watch the first five minutes of the pilot episode of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.” I’ve tried to get into the show multiple times and have never been able to finish the first scene. Let me know if you have any luck.

The desire to be in a relationship is interesting in itself. It’s exciting to think that the next person you meet might be a part of your story. But does the person you’re in a relationship with even matter if what you want is “a relationship,” any relationship? 

In Roland Barthes’ “A Lover’s Discourse,”  he writes about how the “amorous subject” is just a figment of your imagination. Its existence actually doesn’t matter that much; all the turmoil you go through when you like someone can snowball without you knowing anything about them. Barthes writes about the lover (you) as “someone speaking within himself, amorously, confronting the other (the loved object), who does not speak.” Again, it’s easy to love the idea of love when romance depicted on screen is so electric. But in real life, relationships aren’t always cinematic, and they require a lot of self-awareness. Not to tell you what to do or anything, but think about why you want to be in a relationship in the first place. Your answer will determine what kind of movie you end up watching.

Naturally, if you’re looking for the right answer from me, I don’t have one. I’m still figuring it out myself, and I’ve messed up more times than I’ve succeeded. From anecdotal experience, things crop up when you least expect them to. Sometimes when you want something too badly, it might not happen because others can feel the desperation. 

It is fun being a senior, though, trying to avoid the people you used to like. 

Alice is a Pratt senior. Her advice column, “Tea Time,” runs on alternate Wednesdays. Tea Time is accepting questions all semester long. Submit using the form below. The theme for the next column is finding your passion. Are you looking for a job? Picking your major? Thinking about the future? Confused about it all? Spill the tea. 


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