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Small handwriting sample of C.J.'s First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page
Sam with her pink sunglasses

Sam's green frog, Snuffulupagus

Sam in her favorite shades

26 September 2005

Fantasies caressed my mind as I thumbed through handbooks about choosing the right college. I took online quizzes to match myself to the perfect school. I asked my family for their advice. I envisioned a small liberal arts college, characterized by tiny classes and philosophical musings, late-night coffee and towering bookshelves. I dreamed of intellectual utopia.

My intellectual paradise lacked reality. I don’t even like coffee.

Ultimately, circumstance and finance dictated the college selection process, and I found myself sending in a deposit for orientation (July 11-14) at UT, a notoriously large college, in a city renowned for its nightlife.

I was intoxicated, feverish, thrilled.

And simultaneously, I was intimidated, frightened, terrified.

I applied (and was admitted) as an economics major. But after two weeks of high school eco, I knew that it wasn’t right for me. Conflicted, I stared down the list of majors offered by the College of Liberal Arts, and contemplated. I’ve always loved books, so English seemed like the natural choice. But still, despite the rightness of my choice, I was biting my nails. I had already started telling people that I was an English major.

The most common response: “Why?”

To be quite honest, I didn’t know. And that scared me. I figured that with my diploma, graduating would hand me a road map for life. I thought that walking across that stage at the Toyota Center at my high school graduation would skyrocket me to educational nirvana, an automatic answer to every lost question.

Not so much.

Orientation alleviated none of those emotions. That week chaotically blurred through me–I remember hearing about foam parties and registration nightmares, the “gerbil-esque” scent of Jester Center’s 8th floor, late-night Kerbey Lane runs. I saw it as a preview of my collegiate future.

Disappointment swarmed my already confused self. The social aspect of UT spectacularly surpassed my casual reveries, but from a scholastic standpoint, I was disheartened. I was petrified of monstrous lecture halls, foreign professors and, most of all, a lack of mental stimulation. Because of my last-minute major change, I had no adviser. I somehow had signed up for “History of Women in 20th Century Africa” because I couldn’t find an open calculus class. French didn’t fit into my schedule.

When I returned home, I distracted myself with more trivial matters.

I paced around my room, agonizing over dorm room shopping. I was forced into life-altering decisions–the color of my laundry hamper (blue or black?), thread counts for sheets, which of my 28 pairs of shoes to bring. And after all, the color scheme of Kinsolving dorm rooms would set the tone for my college career.

Armed with my pink and black sheets, an excessive number of throw pillows and stuffed animals, my blue hamper, 13 pairs of shoes and a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, I stormed onto the UT campus, ready to conquer it. After using the last of my orientation food money on Ethernet and printer cables, some last-minute food supplies and a lanyard, I flopped onto my bed and basked in the maturity of independence. I unpacked, clumsily tripping into love with my dorm room, as my picture frames went up, my closet was color-coordinated and my shiny new PowerBook was plugged in.

I woke up early on a Sunday morning, and went for a run, exploring campus. It was gorgeous. I sprinted down San Jacinto, relishing in the drumming of my feet on the pavement. I survived my run-in with a squirrel. High on adrenaline, I raced upstairs to my dorm room, and determined, I fixed my schedule through add/drop. I challenged myself by taking 17 hours and the harder calculus option. I registered for a one-hour French class that would refresh my high school instruction until I had room for the more advanced course.

Anticipation coursed through me. My trepidation dissipated.

And, to be quite honest, that feeling of newness, that excitement, still circulates in my burnt orange blood. This campus bubbles with life and adventure. I’m having the time of my life, as trite as it may seem. 

Of course, I’m still lost and confused. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’m a wandering mind in a burnt orange maze. But, I’m not alone. Every other freshman is just like me—we’re all still looking for completion. And that’s the beauty of college–four years where it’s perfectly acceptable to be perplexed. The real world is still an enigma, and as I’m untangling it, I’m realizing that enigma makes life beautiful. Foresight and planning are useful, don’t misunderstand–but somehow, life’s rocky mystery appeals to my intellect. I’d rather be studying what I love–literature and writing–than taking the smooth path.

Enigma intrigues me. I don’t want my life planned. I’d rather live than spend time thinking about living.

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