Whenever I hear or learn about the W curve, it reminds me of Spider-man and Wolverine. This post is a compare/contrast of these two characters. Why?! Because no two college students are the same! Your experience will be different from your roommates, from the guy sitting in front of you in class, to, well, anyone at your college campus! I know I have talked about Spidey a lot recently, but he makes my point! Wolverine is new to this discussion and I am glad I can involve him. The W curve doesn’t just relate to college. You will go through the steps of the W curve through almost every aspect of your life. Your first job, buying a home, traveling, having kids, it all relates back to the W curve.
The W curve begins with the Honeymoon stage. For the first time in your life, you will be on your own. No one will be telling you when to go to bed, what to eat, if you should go to class or not, all the decisions are yours! You are free to be your own person, and that is awesome! Like Spider-man, who was ecstatic, confused but ecstatic, he did all he could to feel the freedom and rush of having his new powers! As will you. You will test your limits and boundaries, discover who you are.
But, the Honeymoon stage cannot last forever. For some, the honeymoon stage lasts for a couple weeks, others a couple months, and for some they never experience the honeymoon stage, but rather go straight to the Cultural Shock stage! The latter of the three reminds me of Wolverine. Looking past Wolverine’s time in Weapon X (when he was experimented on) or his time in the Canadian Wilderness, but rather when he became a resident of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and a member of the X-men. He has hit by culture shock hardcore! Being in a place such as that, it was new, disorienting, and something he was unfamiliar with. Spider-man also was affected by Cultural Shock when Uncle Ben died and he began to fight crime. Entering into this new terrain can be frightening and after the Honeymoon stage, after being away from the familiarity of your hometown and family, the cultural workings of college can be stifling. But here is the thing about the W curve…none of the stages last forever!
After a while, after meeting friends, getting involved, doing well in your classes, the next stage of the W curve occurs: Initial Adjustment. Everyone goes through it sooner or later, even superheroes. Spider-man and Wolverine both acclimated to their new lives and responsibilities. It takes time and effort. It isn’t the type of thing that will shift overnight. It would be cool if it did, but it doesn’t happen that way. Easiest way to adjust to college or any new experience? Get involved, ask for help, and know that you are not alone!!! There are so many people around you who are going through the same thing. You have friends, family, and other loved ones who want to see you succeed. Spidey and Wolverine had their own support systems which made the adjustment easier (Aunt May and MJ for Spider-man and the X-men/Professor X for Wolverine.) Don’t think you have to do it on your own.
Of course, with any W, after the first up there is a second down. The mental isolation stage. This is when you feel the most alone, and in my personal opinion, this is the hardest part about the W curve. You start wondering “Is college for me?” “Would I be happier doing something else?” The thoughts that you are the only person who feels this way, that no one understands the stress and strain you under. (For most people this occurs right after Thanksgiving Break). Everyone goes through some degree of this isolation. Peter Parker gave up being Spider-man at one point because he couldn’t stand being the only person that knew he was Spider-man and Wolverine, well Wolverine always found a way to isolate himself from others, there were just times in which it was worse. Like all the stages before, this too will end. How?! Talk to family, talk to friends, make sure you are INVOLVED!!! I cannot state that enough! Getting involved makes all of this so much easier! And don’t be afraid to ask for help or even take time for yourself if need be.
And of course, the W curve does come to an end with Acceptance and Integration. By the end of all of it, you will feel like a member of the community, a part of the bigger group! Whether it be a part of the group, the campus, the team, or whatever you have been involved with. You may even begin to call your campus home. For some, this can take just a semester to feel accepted and integrated into the community, for others it can take the entire academic year. Why is there such a difference? Those who get involved earlier and stay involved are able to acclimate to their new accommodations easier than those that do not! So even more than just talking about Wolverine and Spider-man and the W curve, the biggest thing I can say is GET INVOLVED!!!