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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: I used to suck

opinion-unc-cringe-culture
Photos courtesy of Taylor Nock.

A week ago I went to my first basketball game at UNC (we lost to Clemson). My appearance at the game followed a two-year-long period in which I claimed to not care at all about UNC sports, or any UNC-affiliated events in general. 

See, my first year I fell into this idea that school spirit was “cringey.” I couldn’t imagine caring so much about who won or lost a game that had no real impact on my life. The entire idea of school spirit just seemed absurd to me; I would relentlessly mock the adult alumni who traveled back to UNC for major events — "Who could possibly care this much?" I would wonder. 

For that reason, I neglected to attend a single sports event: football, basketball, field hockey, etc. I actually prided myself on this. I was willingly choosing to miss an entire piece of the college experience for the sole reason that I had arbitrarily deemed it cringey when I was 18. 

Up until this past month, that mentality defined my college experience. I have, in many ways, chosen to be miserable for no other purpose than to be miserable. In classes I would sit silently and stoically, refusing to interact with my classmates in any way that was more than simple small talk before class. I didn’t need to make friends — I had enough already. 

I wouldn’t go to office hours, I was doing well enough. Why would I need to speak with the professor? 

When my friends and I would go out we would awkwardly stand off to the side of whatever event we were at, refusing to interact with anyone who wasn’t being as boring or as miserable as us. 

All around, I was choosing to be miserable, completely rejecting any sort of interaction with the campus around me. I’m not even sure why exactly I was so intent on doing this, but it became so ingrained in my identity at this school that it just felt right; I hated this school, though I wasn’t sure why. 

I woke up one day recently and realized I was coming up on my final year of college. I’ve almost completed three years at this University, why then, does it feel like I haven’t even become a student here yet?

When you spend your entire college experience rejecting any meaningful interaction with said college, you (surprise) don’t actually feel like you’re at college. You’re just wasting away, attending classes, waiting to graduate. 

I decided it was time to make a change. I didn’t want to look back in a decade and realize I had foregone so many opportunities for no other reason than that my angsty freshmen self thought it was lame. I took it upon myself to fully embrace UNC. 

I attended that basketball game with absolutely no expectations, I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I can stubbornly admit that it was genuinely one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as of late. I’m thankful I don’t care about sports because it didn’t even make a difference to me that we lost the game, I just had fun being there. Sitting there with my overpriced popcorn and coke I felt a massive sense of regret over all of the things I had missed out on, all of the games I hadn’t been to. 

However, I wasn’t going to sit and mellow in this regret, I was going to learn from my lesson. In the past two weeks, I have been more involved in this campus than I ever have been. I’ve spent late nights in Davis with study groups, I signed up to play for an intramural soccer team, I’ve made coffee plans with peers I’ve had classes with for four consecutive semesters yet have never spoken to. I officially feel like a college student. 

It often feels like everyone here is having the time of their life, but this hasn’t been the case for me. The first two years of my college life were overburdened with a range of awful circumstances that ultimately kept me from just enjoying the campus around me. I spent a long time sinking into this state of misery and missing out on really amazing opportunities.

I know first hand that it’s a lot easier said than done, but sometimes you have to pull yourself out of this state. Maybe socializing isn’t your thing, but find small things you can do on this campus that help you appreciate the fact that while this may not be the best four years of your life, it doesn’t have to be the worst. 

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