If there’s one thing I’ve mastered in life, it is the ability to turn any and everything into a joke. The truth is — I’m not that funny, and it definitely takes a certain type of person to really understand my humor. However, it also doesn’t matter because I’m still absolutely going to make that remark. At the cost of some political correctness, awkward silences when no one else finds the joke funny and occasional confusion on whether or not it was supposed to be sarcasm, I joke around pretty much all the time — especially with my closest friends. I like to believe most of my friends appreciate this about me, though my no-nonsense parents have certainly reached their limit with my antics before. Winter break talks with my father include statements like, “It is not a joke, Athena. Life is very serious.” To these warnings, I’d usually laugh to myself — or maybe that was out loud — and then agree that yes, life is serious, and I absolutely need to realize that. I make it sound like I’m some sort of comedian who hosts stand-up acts in my apartment late at night or something, but that’s far from accurate. I’m no class clown or compulsive joker, but I do use humor as one of the many ways I divert myself from Public Enemy No. 1 — the harsh and way-too-serious reality. To be honest, ignoring that part of my life has gone pretty well up until now. But along with third-year comes responsibilities like resumes, Handshake accounts, interviews and all those other things that are getting way too real and close to popping my blissful, college-protected bubble. Right now — for the first time — I’m realizing that reality is not only harsh, but also imminent. It is right around the proverbial bend for my fellow third years and me, and this time there is no joke I could possibly make to chase it away. Instead, it’s probably time to embrace reality. My best amateur advice to give someone going through something similar to this mid-college crisis is simple — go out less, learn how to cook and make your bed every morning before class. So far, I’ve only stayed loyal to two-thirds of these. For me, though, goals are a good place to start. Of course, it would be absurd to think three trivial things will magically make you get your life on track — but I think it’s true that you have to start small. Another small thing to do is fix your mindset so you are ready and optimistic about the future and all of these adult responsibilities. My favorite college football coach, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, has this great quotation that I think everyone should hang up in their room on a canvas — “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” That’s what we need. I’ll be honest that the realization of reality has led me to some pretty rough times, feelings of hopelessness and absolute exhaustion. However, I’ve also found that if you let your soul get weary, then your whole life will follow suit. On a separate note, there’s a lot to be done in terms of slacking off. My past two years have consisted of me not necessarily pushing homework and readings off to the last minute, but rather getting them done so fast I retain little to no information to clear up my schedule for other commitments. I also I differ from your typical University student by not being hard enough on myself. Sometimes, you need a little negative reinforcement to get yourself truly motivated — I constantly need to remind myself that I can’t rely on exam No. 2 or No. 3 to redeem myself. Regardless of what your downfall is when it comes to studying and staying driven, I can say with almost 100-percent confidence that simply caring is the easiest path to success. For people like me who prefer to avoid anything more serious than including a signature in an email to an adult, reality is scary. The fact that I need to start doing certain things to ensure that I can practice what I love in the future — and that I need to start doing them now — is frightening. I’ve also found, though, that there is a lot of hope in little things and power in staying optimistic. Changing your lifestyle in small ways and constantly reminding yourself that things will get better if you want them to is the most logical way to go through this. The future is scary, but only for as long as you ignore it.