“I was reading a book
Or maybe a magazine
Suggestions on where to place faith
Suggestions on what to believe
But I read somewhere
That you’ve got to beware
You can’t believe everything you read.”
—Jack Johnson, “It’s
You don’t want to go.
Yes, you want to be done with high school, not have to sit in the
same building for eight hours straight ever again, or at least
not for another four years. But you don’t want to move on.
I don’t care what people say. You don’t know what it’s
going to be like, and you fear the unknown, so you’d rather
just stay where you are. Because at this point you feel like you’ve
got it all figured out and challenging that by going to college
would just be a dumb move.
It’s inevitable, though.
Even if you don’t move on,
everyone else will, and so you go begrudgingly. And you hate it.
You don’t want to meet new people because you’ve met
all the people you want to: they know you, you don’t have
to prove to them that you are cool, because they know you’re
not and they love you anyway. What would make these people like
you? They don’t understand you, haven’t been around
you for so many years, and even if they get to liking you it will
take more time than you’re willing to wait for.
So maybe you
sit in your room for a while. Every once in a while you feel obligated
to go out and meet people but it never quite
turns out the way you want it to and is pocked by intermittent
awkward pauses. You aren’t social or fun like all your neighbors
who are going en masse to the next frat party.
You let your guard
down sooner or later. You let things go. You have to. No one can
keep it up for forever. And that’s when
you discover that people really will like you for your boring,
run-of-the-mill self. You discover that 3 a.m. isn’t late
at all when you’re having a conversation, and that runs to
Taco Cabana can be a bonding experience. You discover that you
will always find people who want you to play Frisbee with them,
that every time you walk down the West Mall clubs will attack you
and vie for your membership, even if you have no talent whatsoever.
You realize that there are a lot of places to go, people to meet,
food to eat, walls to cover in posters and fliers and ticket stubs.
realize that, hey, you might like college, and that home seems
like a distant quiet place where everyone is sober and possibly
middle-aged. You stop getting on AOL Instant Messenger every night
to talk to friends from back home because you will see them soon
and you’ve developed an affinity for face-to-face contact.
You stop sleeping, stop studying… You are having too much
Semester averages roll around
and you realize that you may not have made the best choices. Winter
break seems long and short
you want to go back to school, but you also remember how great
and simple life might have been had you stuck around at home. You
remember what it was like for things to not be so dramatic, and
you are at the same time unprepared and itching to go back to where
everything seems just a little bigger. You realize that a lot has
happened in the world, in the news, since you first stepped into
the bubble of college, and you suddenly feel misplaced. Your walls
are bare and you live out of a suitcase, and you just don’t
quite know where home is anymore.
Second semester finally rolls
around and you hit the books. And it’s harder to focus than
you expected, but everyone is in the same boat, and so you motivate
each other. And right when the
semester gets going, you hit a crisis. You realize that perhaps
you’ve forgotten who you are, what you’re doing, why
you came here. You don’t quite remember how to be close to
people, and those all-night conversations are harder to come by.
spring break though, you understand. You no longer feel like a
stranger at home, even feel that you have two homes and both
welcome you and put you at ease. You understand that you’ve
been through a lot. In this one year you’ve watched people
grow and mature more than you could ever make someone who hasn’t
seen it believe. You’ve seen people be happier than you ever
thought possible, people fall in love, form bonds, break people’s
hearts, hurt people, dance, sing, people gain wisdom that no one
should have to but everyone needs to. You try to articulate just
how huge these few little months have been, but no words match
any of it. You look at the people around you and realize that you
wouldn’t trade them for anything, that when you began you
thought you’d never be close to anyone again, and now you
have people who you would do anything for, who maybe you even love.
plow through the rest of the semester driven, knowing what you
have to do. You hit bumps here and there, but it’s over
before you know what’s happening. Suddenly you’re sitting
in your room, looking at the bare walls, the walls that took a
whole year to cover and only 10 minutes to clear. You look at the
pictures that were up from the moment you moved in and they take
on a different meaning. You understand that those people from your
past have made you who you are, and that every person along the
way will add to it. You understand that for all of our lives we
are works in progress and that nothing is wrong with that. Your
books are packed or sold or burned in a bonfire that screams, “I’m
free!” You don’t know what your grades are but you
have a pretty good idea and you’ve surprised yourself that
you actually pulled it off. You survived.
Pretty soon you will be
out of here. Out of this room that you once loathed to leave and
hated to return to. Out of this room
that you know you will miss like crazy. Pretty soon these people
you love will be gone and back in their homes, and while they may
only be 20 minutes away and you know that you will see them again,
you miss them because once they were there all day every day, whenever
you needed them. Every time you needed them.
People ask you what
freshman year will be like and you can tell them. You can tell
them that they will learn how to talk to professors
like roommates, learn to talk to roommates like siblings, to siblings
like best friends. You can tell them that they will see things
they’ve never imagined, wonder things they never questioned,
question things they never doubted, and at the end of it all have
no doubts that everything will be okay.
You tell them that they
will be okay and they have nothing to worry about. That they have
to go because they want to and even more
if they don’t, because college is not something you read
about. It is something you experience.
I can’t believe it’s
over. I want to thank you all for putting up with me, for your
e-mails of your support and for
most of all your empathy. I like knowing that you’ve been
there, or if you haven’t, that you will be there soon. Thank
you so much.
I’m ready to be done with
this semester, ready to be home…but
not ready to leave. Something about next year…it is unknown
and I am happy where I am. My world is perfect and anything from
now on will be…a sneeze in my life of normalcy. I don’t
want to go, don’t want to grow.
Guess I have to.
an e-mail message to Andi.