It seems like it was just yesterday when I awoke to sheer terror. The sun was still only a hazy promise; a promise that within an hour or two the sky would be filled with light. As I stepped out my front door, the chilly summer morning air greeted all parts of my body that were not covered by my light T-shirt or knee-length shorts. I welcomed it. It was the familiar nippy early morning summer air that seemed to be the only thing staying constant in my life as I prepared to head toward a year of uncertainties and firsts. I stepped into my Mother’s car with my brother and his girlfriend, slammed the door shut and drove toward my future; my new home for the next four years. It could have been the best decision of my life, or maybe it could have been the worst. All I knew was that I knew nothing. I just didn’t know; and no one else did either. No college movie or show ever prepares you for the real thing, and no good words from close friends and family can quell the emotions of emptiness, anxiety, and worry mixing in your stomach. In a short car ride and some quick goodbyes, I would be off on my own. Alone. Alone and unprepared.
The first few days were frightening. I seemed to have way more questions than answers. Who was my friend? Who would I go get lunch with? And dinner? Maybe I can just skip this meal if I can’t find someone to go with, but oh my lord, I am so hungry that I think my stomach is eating itself. Wow, look at all these people I don’t know, will I ever know them? Will these strangers ever turn into something more than just a person walking through campus. Will they turn into a handshake, a smile, a “hello,” or maybe some of these faces will turn into a greeting with a hug, but who is who? Am I ever going to fit into this sea of faces? Will I ever make it here?
I definitely made it here. I made this unfamiliar place home.
Familiar faces began appearing in the crowds. I found my circle of friends, the people who I will either form closer bonds with over the next four years, or the people who I will slowly drift apart from, but I still found friends. These were people who needed me just as much as I needed them. We were all lonely, and loneliness can only be cured when two people open themselves up to let others into their lives. We found that loneliness could only be healed by risk; good thing we were all gamblers.
I fell into the rhythm of college life. Going home to the place where I lived for 17 years now seemed more foreign to me than my home at school. Weekends spent home became weekends yearning to get back to Connecticut. Weekends that I would bide my time as I waited to be back in my other home.
There were days when I began to forget that I was at school. It was just too much fun. Sure, I did all my work and went to all my classes, but as soon as class was over, my worries were left behind in that classroom along with the projectors, the desks that are almost too small to fit a laptop and the pungent smell of dry-erase markers. Leaving class just to go back to my room to be surrounded by good friends, better music and whatever stupid show we were watching on TV. This was school, but at the same time it almost had the feel of a summer camp. The work was difficult at times, but it was never not worth it. My friends made this all worth it.
As the year passed, I began to comprehend the terminologies on campus. I know what the rat is, I know that the food in the cafe is “wicked” awful and I personally know what it means to “mount the bobcat.” I began to understand the lay-of-the-land. Tator hall, that was a seven minute walk. CAS, now that’s a hike; give yourself at least ten minutes, kid. School of communications? I bet you could make it there in under ten. A class in the school of law? Definitely a 12 minute walk, maybe you should pack a lunch for the road.
I learned that what is good for me, is definitely not good for everyone. Not everyone had the same experience that I have had this year. It’s not that they did anything wrong, and it’s certainly not that they didn’t try. Maybe this just was not home to them. It is hard to make a place home if it just isn’t meant to be home. Where some find gold, others find coal; what’s good for some is not great for all. And life will go on for these people, they will learn from this mistake. Next year might be one spent closer to home, or it may be one spent in that once place that deep down they always knew they should have gone to for college. This place could be in the woods of Vermont, the cities of New York, Boston or Chicago, or maybe it is that SEC powerhouse football school rooted in the deep south. There is a place for everyone, and if this place was not it, it just means that this was just a stepping stone on the way to a future that is still waiting to be uncovered. A future that I’m sure we will all undoubtably find.
Everything always works out somehow. It’s just how it is. If this year wasn’t your year, next year will be. If this place wasn’t home, next year can bring a nice new change of scenery; another chance to unpack and find a home. A place where you find that you are so excited for the future, but are so happy with the current situation that you also dread the future. The future becomes bittersweet because the moment is just too surreal. The moment is too beautiful.
That’s how it has been for me.
So as I say goodbye to my first year in college, I can say that, “yes I did make it.” So I made it to college and I also made it through; at least one year, that is. I’ve certainly changed. I am a different person than who I was stepping out of Momma’s car late in August. I still look the same, I still smell the same (by the way Mom, I definitely need more soap) and I still sound the same, but I am definitely different. I have seen that there is so much more out there in this world that I have often heard is so vast. My mind has been opened up to new points of view, my mind has accepted new outlooks and I have crafted some of them as my own. I have met people with their own demons, their own ghosts and their own challenges. I have begun to confront my own demons, too. I have come to understand my strengths and weaknesses, and have realized that everybody has those too.
I better understand people, better understand myself and better understand this world. Mostly, I understand
that I really don’t understand much.
To put it simple, college has been great. Not just good, but great. I still have three more years. Three more great years.
So let’s go, I’m excited to see where we all end up.