If there’s one thing that I can recommend to incoming University of Michigan students, it would be to eat your macaroni straight out of the pan (no extra dish to clean — life hack). After that, though, I would say everyone should understand that there is a really good chance that you will be victim of some sort of horrible administrative nonsense at least once, and that handling it with some flexibility and humor is definitely going to save you some grief.

This university is huge and most of us have at least one instance of special circumstances that mess with transcripts, schedules, living situations or one of myriad bits of minutiae that compose the everyday experience of college life.

This extends outside of school too; our world can seem like one long stream of random administrative annoyances. And, while there are plenty of online resources to check in with to figure things out, ultimately, it’s up to the individual to make sense of it and figure out how to handle it without losing his or her mind.

To illustrate this, I was a transfer student after my freshman year, and I can point to approximately 6 million personal examples of administrative nuances that have tried to screw me over. There was a mistake in sending my transcripts first, then my prerequisites were jumbled in the system, then I found out that when my credits from my quarter-system school were moved to the semester system, it gave my transfer classes odd thirds of credits that I had to figure out how to distribute neatly to stay on track for graduation.

Possibly the most frustrating thing that I went through, though, was when I had to petition for my honors writing course from my previous university to count as my first-year writing requirement here. The non-honors writing course that I could have taken at my old school was automatically accepted at the University as counting for this freshman requirement, but the more advanced alternative wasn’t. I had to submit paperwork, syllabi and an extensive write-up about that writing course for the school to even consider that this honors course could count.

That’s ridiculously frustrating, right?

As irritating as that whole thing was, though, I can’t say that it was completely unexpected since, in my experience, living in an organized society sometimes just means dealing with series of unfathomable oddities. In essence, a lot of life is just one long “what the hell?” feeling followed by resigned sighing. What actually counts is how we handle these moments of frustration.

It might be easiest to write these things off as meaningless confusions, things that we just might have to live with as unchangeable, but these same points of annoyance could also be opportunities to prove to yourself that you are an agile person, willing to roll with the punches. Stress can lead to anxiety, or it can be viewed as a chance to rise to the occasion.

For instance, with my transfer-credit petition, was I annoyed and confused about why I had to do it? Absolutely. That saga was an unprecedented amount of nonsense and hurdles, even for me (and I go out of my way to seek out more nonsense). But I also decided that, because it was a necessity that I had to power through, I at least had the power to decide how to view the process.

For me, I’d like to look at that undertaking as being both an average tale about being prepared to wade through some paperwork to get things completely straightened out — the more traditional view on such an event — and also a tale of my new school challenging me to be the proactive, assertive person it wanted me to be and to fight for my desired result — the less traditional way of looking at this.

As someone who is about to graduate and move onto a new step in my life, this outlook on nonsense as an opportunity for interpretation or reflection can be very comforting. I don’t know what’s waiting for me out there, but I know that, for the most part, I can take life how I want, and decide what lessons to take away from what I find.

Assuming that there’s a whole lot of nonsense waiting for me out there to tease apart and analyze, I have full confidence in myself to work these things out, largely from my chance to prove I can whenever things get strange and annoying. If I can deal with all of the obstacles that transferring presents and choose to find a positive lesson in that, then I can almost definitely deal with whatever gibberish I encounter outside of school in a meaningful way.

Really, though, the little bits of annoyances in life can add up to an overwhelming amount if you let them. But not only will you be happier — the people around will thank you if you take life with a grain of salt and roll with the punches.

Sarah Leeson can be reached at sleeson@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.