It is the third day of classes of my second year of Oberlin, a circumstance that throws me into an odd position. I know the ropes--I can find my way around (and show first-years around!), I get hugs from people in the halls, I was able to sell last year's textbooks over the Oberlin Classifieds . . . All the things an old hand ought to be able to do, I can do.
But I still feel like there's so much I haven't done, so much I don't know. I've never been to the Oberlin Market, never visited a co-op, never explored the art library or been to an Organ Pump or ridden a bike. I came in meaning to learn how to do that (I never quite got past the training-wheels stage), as well as take some violin lessons, learn another foreign language (besides French), get really involved in on-campus activism . . . None of those things have happened, at least not yet.
On the other hand, I've done other things. I've been an arts reporter for the Oberlin Review for one semester, and that exposed me to a lot of really cool people and events I otherwise would not have known about. I've joined an improv troupe and traveled to Chicago with them--twice. I've worked as a lifeguard, written a 24-page report on bathroom graffiti, gone to plays and an opera and convocations and a few things at the Cat. I've taken three ExCos and eight "real" classes and gotten good grades in all of them. I've patronized the public library and the comic book store and taken walks in the town and the Arb. I figured out the basics of playing guitar and, recently, learned the Four Chords to Almost Every Song Ever on the piano. I've even managed to get a job blogging for the admissions office--how about that?
In short, Oberlin has a lot to offer. Initial plans can and will go out the window, and that's great.
I do feel, however, that I've kind of gone about the college experience a bit backwards from most people: the academic growth first, and the social part later. I have been very adventurous, very involved--in organized activities. I'm all for taking risks--I just like having things all secure and squared away first, so that if I goof up, there is damage control already in place. If I ended up staying awake until four playing trivia games sometimes, at least I knew my homework was done the day before. It's practical, and efficient, and if it comes at the expense of some fluidity, that's the price of maturity.
But if you can't cut yourself a little slack in college, when can you do it?
Like many other Obies, I am a strange mixture of forthcoming and shy. I'll introduce myself to total strangers or be the only person to speak up in class, but with people I only semi-know, I'm not nearly as confident. I sometimes choose to do my homework right now to avoid gatherings of these semi-acquaintances, using productivity as my excuse. On the other hand, I have no problem spending literally hours talking with my friends over meals, homework or no. I really can't explain this; maybe in a few more psych courses it will become clear. The upshot, though, is that I'm not good at granting myself permission to just hang out.
However, I'm becoming aware of this and took steps to correct it this year. I'm still taking fifteen or sixteen credits of classes--I wouldn't want to take less--but I designed everything else to give myself as much free time and incentive to relax as possible. I have friends with diverse interests who I want to spend time with. I do things with my roommate. I arranged my lifeguarding shifts so they wouldn't break up my day too much. Heck, I live on SF/Fantasy Hall, which, not coincidentally, I chose because it's a strong community of interesting, funny people who I already knew I'd be comfortable with.
Last year, my goal was to establish a network and learn to operate efficiently. This year, my goal is to chill out. I went through high school functioning more or less like an adult. Time for me to explore being a teenager.
Consequently, despite the fact that I have to read about statistics, and despite the fact that I have to be at Sunshine Scouts auditions in an hour, I am sitting in Ma'ayan's living room, eating home-made chocolate cupcakes and butterscotch pudding, blogging and chatting with the other lovely people who post here. Interesting fact: real butterscotch pudding does not taste like butterscotch-flavored things. It tastes a bit like homemade caramel, only cold and slimy. Actually, that makes it sound disgusting, and it's not--it's delicious. It's . . . you know what? Go make some. Yes, you, prospie: google a recipe, get up from your computer, and make it. Then share it with other people (best way to make friends in college: give them fresh goodies). Take the time.
It'll be worth it.