It's been creeping up on me for a while now. It started as a tiny thought in the back of my head. Then it became a knot in my gut. Finally it arrived as this terrible realization: I'm going about college the absolute wrong way. I have failed as a freshman.
When I came to college I anticipated running around with all new people and wild crazy times. I envisioned conga lines and late nights swapping stories about trips to the Congo and contemporary conversations about the postmodernism of the Beat generation and my hero Allen Ginsberg. I would be avant garde and feel comfortable as the centerpiece at parties. It would all be very suave and nothing about my new life would reflect my Midwestern upbringing. Even though I'd never experienced any of that in high school, I thought it would be inevitable in my new atmosphere. I was right, right?
I haven't been to a single rager (unless Queer Beers at the 'Sco counts). I haven't had any one-night stands. I frequently find myself in the library from dinner until two a.m. More than once I have spent my Friday night watching movies in my room or just having coffee at Slow Train with a friend before a late night of studying. My mornings are spent taking a walk or in the Art Library, not nursing a hangover. Still overwhelmed by loud music and lots of people, I gravitate more towards calm hangouts with a banjo in the corner. I have great close friends, and I don't go out of my way to introduce myself to new people. (It's scary!) I'm learning tons in and out of the classroom, but I don't feel any more confident or capable. I still get nervous about depositing my paycheck incorrectly or forgetting to pick up vitamins from Gibson's or if the attractive girl in the skirt thought I was cute or not. I bite my nails over my blog posts, wondering if they're good or not, helpful or not.
Additionally, I feel like I make freshman mistakes all the time. I embarrass myself on a daily basis. From silly things like not knowing that Decafé has two exits, to drastic things like breaking stack at a board meeting. I am just as socially awkward as I was in high school. I'm sure I do things that people frown upon. I have clarifying questions that any second-year would roll their eyes at. In Mudd, I'll go to the bathroom and then not be able to find my way back to where I was working. The Oberlin College dating scene is a complete mystery to me. I have no way of knowing who's dated who and I find myself trying to dive into this system that I don't understand. I still have social anxiety and feel incredibly uncool and unsuave around other people. Daily I am in awe of how I could have possibly fallen into such good company with these amazing people.
As of late, all of this has been giving me a lot of (additional) anxiety. Not only am I bending to the pressures of classes and extracurriculars, but also I've been walking around with this daunting notion that every move I make is incorrect. Sure, no one's grading me, but certainly my peers, professors, friends, and acquaintances are observing me. If all I am is this bundle of awkward, if my actions don't jive with what's right, that definitely can't be good for my social standing in the long run. Right, right?
Dead wrong again.
When I started this post, I didn't have any solutions to my problem. I felt like I would just continue on trying to make ends meet in order to fit myself into one life that I would love. But then I had another realization. I can't love all the pieces of myself. I do make stupid mistakes. I do do things that people frown upon. But I learn from the things I do wrong and overall I like who I am. More importantly, every day I like who I am becoming even more.
Furthermore, I realized that one's freshman year isn't standardized. There's not a set experience I'm supposed to be having. There's no quota I need to meet. I don't have to go to parties or feel comfortable in large groups of people in order to 'be cool' or have 'the freshman experience.' If studying in the library is what makes me happy, then that's what I should spend my time doing. If walks, reading, and banjos are what make me feel good about myself, then those are the things I should focus on. There is nothing wrong with having your freshman year be about parties and making great friends and doing crazy wild things. In fact, I think a part of me will always envy those who are able to do so. I'm only offering an alternative for those who that's not for.
College is what you make of it. At Oberlin those words are truer than anything. Here you have the chance to define who you're going to be, with the knowledge that it's okay to have that person change. And I can't imagine a better place to make mistakes and figure out who that person is than at Oberlin.
P.S. One of my freshman failures is that I still can't figure out how to get photographs into blogs and it's preventing me from posting as frequently as I'd like to. But don't worry, I am on it!