I’ve been back at school for two weeks now. I’m an R.A.! Oh goody! Yum, yum, yum — I love me some rules.
The freshmen moved in on Friday, and the night before I found myself thinking of them. Thinking about them packing up their belongings, doing one final sweep, gathering nerves, setting alarms. Or maybe they were already here. Maybe they had, like I had my first year, packed up the car the day before, put the roof rack on, grabbed their pillows, and driven on down to Northampton to stay the night in a hotel, in hopes of being the first in the room in the morning. For the poor girls in the forced quads in my house, I sure hoped they did that.
Can you imagine being a college freshman again? How fucking scary that is? I’d rather eat my own foot. On the morning of move-in day, I did my version of “praying” for the freshmen yet again. God, it’s the scariest thing in the world. Perhaps I’m projecting — some people really enjoy college and their first time away from home. I can’t say for certain that I’m one of those people.
And what an extra-scary time to be moving in. My college is already what a reasonable person would call overly strict (some of the older house still have metal bars on the windows to prevent handsome young women from absconding with handsome young men, and it still feels as though the college would very much like to have us all tucked into bed at 9:30 sharp). In the age of COVID, there are now rules upon rules.
(“Phoebe,” you may be asking, “you don’t seem all too keen on rules. Why, then, are you an R.A.?” A very reasonable question, my friend. Long story short: I wanted a single and to not have to work in the dining hall. Long story short longer: I do really like people and helping people, and I’m trying to push myself a little.)
So moving in and not even being able to see the faces of your peers? Not being able to find solidarity in their similarly terrified faces? God, that must have been scary. Snaps to you, frosh. You’re doing a hell of a thing. I’m proud of you for even trying.
I go to a historically women’s college, so although we don’t have Greek life, the whole campus is a bit like a sorority. I had to be in front of the house for move-in day, and it was in the middle of this awful heat wave. Four hours outside in 90 degree heat and blistering sun. On top of that, we were expected to be peppy, which is hardly my default. Every time a car pulled up, we all let out a loud whoop, and cheered if we learned they were in our house. I was again thinking back to my freshman year, how intimidating I would have found that, all these eyes on me and heat and loud noise and a slew of information.
It’s just hard. Really, really hard. Maybe I’m thinking about it so much because I almost feel like a freshman again. I have only a handful of real friendships that have made it through our 18 months apart, and I’m feeling as lost and directionless as I did my first year, if not more so. I can’t help asking myself, Is this worth it? Is this really what I want to be doing? Or, more so lately, questions like, Does this decision make financial sense? Who do I want to be? If the world is ending in a few years, shouldn’t I be seeing it first?
There are things I like about college, and there are things that make me feel so insecure and lost. Some people might tell you to lean into those feelings, but I fear I’d lose myself in them.
So to you, dear college freshman, I say this: These do not have to be the best years of your life. Many people actually peak in their thirties! These late years of teenhood and early years of your twenties, they are still filled with insecurities and dashed hopes and trying to prove yourself to you and everyone else. This too shall pass. Don’t take it all to heart. Learn and grow and take as much as you can. Hell, take the silverware! As long as you’re trying to make yourself happy, and trying to have a positive impact on those around you, you’re doing a hell of a job in my book.