The University of Texas at Austin wordmark
Small handwriting sample of Andi's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page
Andi sits outside at a coffee shop on Guadalupe

Andi's blue Adidas Santiosage flip-flops

Andi works in the photo lab at The Daily Texan, she holds a film reel in the dark room

“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 All Understood”

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.

You 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 fun.

Semester averages roll around and you realize that you may not have made the best choices. Winter break seems long and short because 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.

Come 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.

You 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.

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