So I’m a college student now. I’m not a co-ed, which is a shame, because what a lovely turn of phrase — sounds very Nancy Drew-ish. It’s funny how quickly you can become not used to men. I’ll have been here exactly a month when this goes to press, and when I see a guy now I’m almost confused.
It’s crazy how drastically my world has shrunk since I’ve been here. I’m in my dorm or a friend’s dorm or class or the library. I walk up the street to class, then to lunch, then to class, then to dinner, practice, etc. My world is a fraction of what it once was. I don’t have to drive to school or drive to see friends. My parents’ house in Portland is close to downtown, but Northampton’s downtown is practically next door (Portland’s downtown is far superior, but don’t tell Smith I said that).
In short, I’m feeling a bit homesick, and a bit claustrophobic. I don’t know this place. Is the pizza as good as Otto’s, or Slab? Can I get a dinner as delicious and cheap as I used to get at Ohno? I’ve never had to discover a new place before, and it’s hard not to yearn for the familiar.
People always warn of the newfound freedom you get when you go off to college: the “Freshman 15,” partying too hard, not sleeping enough, sleeping around too much. But honestly, I feel like I’ve lost freedom at college.
I was so worried before I left for school: worried about not making friends, about not being able to handle the course load, and, most of all, worried about becoming a hermit. I talked a lot with my therapist about that one, but I have yet to become a hermit. Because, really, it’s pretty simple to make friends during your first few weeks of college. We’re all desperate for some human connection!
May it suffice to say that I’m doing fine. I’m meeting people. I have faith that eventually I’ll have a group of good friends. But you know, at home I had that. And it was good. And it’s hard to feel like I’m not giving that up. At home, on the weekend, I could text someone at any time of the day and make plans to go do something. We had cars and loose curfews. My parents would even give me money sometimes. Here, if you’re looking for something to do on the weekend, you have to bus out to Amherst to get plastered.
It’s ironic that I feel my social freedom is more limited here, because this is perhaps the first opportunity I’ve ever had to fully invent the person I want to be, and decide who I want to be around. Perhaps it was because I was “socialized as a female” (that’s the type of lingo we use here), but I’m finding it harder than I’d expected to actually reach out to people. I’m being shown how much of myself was a product of my environment. I had a lot of situational confidence, and I’m having to fight hard to take the pieces of myself that I like into this new situation, this new stage of my life.
I am, strangely, healthier here. I’m eating broccoli! It’s crazy. I’m playing ultimate frisbee, which I never did in high school because of all the running. As a person who’s never been particularly athletic, I’ve always felt very uncomfortable exercising around athletic people. But I think the freedom of not knowing anyone, the freedom of having no stake in what these people think of me, has allowed me to explore who I want to be in my body.
This very evening, I went to frisbee practice and then ran barefoot up a hill to go meditate. And then I went to the library to study! Like, Jesus, who am I?
Having all this time on my hands has really forced me to take better care of myself, because being even vaguely interested in something is better than sitting alone in the dorm. I’ve been told the first six weeks of college are the hardest, so hopefully, by the time November’s issue has come out, I’ll have solved this whole college thing.
I’m getting there. I think. I just need to figure out how to still be Phoebe-from-Portland in Northampton, Mass.