The Middle Child Speaks


I am, along with the rest of the numerous and talented class of 2012, a sophomore. This is a humble distinction indeed, as I am no longer a novelty on campus, nor am I seasoned enough to be considered a veteran.

Nevertheless, this is an important time in my young life, because it is the time where things should be beginning to come together. For me, then, and my peers, the title of sophomore might be significant, although it is difficult to characterize how or why. In preparation for writing this article, I asked a few of my friends what they thought of this, our collective sophomore year. The responses included the following:

“Sophomore year? It blows. Just make a list of all the things that suck about sophomore year, and that can fill up your page.”
“Yeah, really.”
“And don’t forgot to mention the existential crisis.”
What existential crisis?

“Well, freshmen have all their special little events and everybody’s looking after them and making sure they’re all right, juniors know what they’re doing, and seniors don’t care. Sophomores are stuck, unloved.”

So apparently, sophomores feel like neglected children, and we’re unhappy about it. As some people have pointed out, there are freshman and junior parents’ weekends, seniors have Commencement — but sophomores are left without much to go with except the unsettling command to buck up and choose our concentrations, and finally start figuring out what we’re going to do with our sharp minds and the seemingly endless time left to accomplish things in. Meanwhile, a different set of people tries to give us conflicting advice, and even our peers and the best of our friends try to sway us. Two of my best friends here on campus have subtly or overtly taken offense at my original plan, the road to medical school, and I have suddenly found myself in the most bizarre peer pressure situation that has ever existed. Whenever I mention becoming a physician or going to medical school, I am often greeted with statements like this: “You’re not going to medical school, so stop it.” If a more diplomatic friend is involved in the conversation, the statement is gentler, softer and more likely to worm its way into my head.

But this can only go to show the power of our peers —especially at a school like ours, where our peers are all extraordinary. And even though I have gotten my fair share of mixed messages, I have not transformed entirely, and maybe this is the most informative personal event that occurs.

Like the god Janus, sophomores can both see themselves before college and predict how things might go after, and in this way I think sophomores might have a more interesting perspective on themselves than other years. We have to knowwhere we’re going, and we also have to know where we’ve our plan of study worksheets and our Houses will descend upon us in fury. On the other hand, we at least don’t have the pressure of applying to graduate (or medical, or law, or business) schools, or taking the tedious exams that go along with those applications. We may be the neglected children of the college playground, but at least we’re not lost freshmen or panicking upperclassman quite yet. We can rest comfortably in limbo, and while more serious matters might draw closer, we at least can be soothed by our own limbo.

Riva Riley ’12 (rjriley@fas) thinks peer pressure is hilarious
in the proper context.