The Irony of Being a Student

Cole Sterling

True difficulty lies not
           In school, or staying involved,
           Or scoring well on tests.
Time and dedication are mandatory.
Everyone can distinguish black from white,
And everyone can sculpt something from clay.
           But being able to paint the empty spaces with color,
           Fill the cracks with laughter and passion and spirit–
           Such an art is easily forgotten,
           Or easily ignored.
Rhodopsin alone could suffice for reading resumes,
So why waste the time developing a genuine heart?

True difficulty lies
           In learning when to slow down–
           When to surrender yourself to life’s passions and wonders,
           When to paint or skydive or even just breathe.
           When to enjoy whatever you have at this very moment.
True difficulty lies
           In knowing how to balance the scales–
           How to reach the success found in monochromatic TVs
           Without chewed-up cuticles and tightened shoulders,
           And a cast-iron soul.
Indeed, true difficulty lies
           In trusting yourself.
           Trusting that becoming the person you’ve always dreamed of being
           Is far more important than reaching the position you’ve always dreamed of having.
           Trusting that the path toward finding yourself
           Will always lead you to the right destination.

Because once we’re past this preliminary stage–
This necessary but disparate sculpting of mere clay,
           Only by understanding the cracks and shades within ourselves
           Will we be able to paint this world
           And sculpt the lives of people here.

About the poet:

Cole Sterling is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences at Auburn University with hopes of going to medical school in 2013. “In my spare time I enjoy playing piano, going to concerts and watching SEC football. I began writing poetry in seventh grade to better understand myself and the world around me. Today writing helps me to slow down, stay grounded and remember who I am.” 

About the poem:

“I wrote this poem at 2:00 am after a long night of studying for the MCAT. I remember feeling so emotionally drained at the time that it was actually more difficult for me to relax and enjoy myself than to sit down and continue studying. This experience reminded me of how often this must happen to students at all levels, and how dangerously easy it can become to live life as a machine rather than a human being.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"

About the Poem


1 thought on “The Irony of Being a Student”

  1. As a premed student, it is sometimes difficult to remind yourself of this. Thank you for the reminder and the inspiration.

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Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"