There I was...18 years old, three weeks out of college, standing in front of my beautiful brick-red house. Nestled in a small mountain town, my jacket and steaming cider warmed my heart as the air bit my cheeks and I smiled at the simplicity all around me. After a year of exhilarating chaos, everything was exactly the same. The friendly neighborhood guitar player sat on his porch strumming a melody; the birds becoming his accompanist. Children rode by on their bikes, making sure to say "hi" as they passed. Laughter filled the air as families enjoyed their first barbecue of the summer; the sun said goodnight in a brilliant display of orange, blue and purple across the sky. Every so often, my focus would break as old family friends pulled me in for an embrace and three wonderful words: "Welcome home Kae". I could only close my eyes and take it all in. There sat my mom's flower baskets in the oasis we built entirely by hand, there sat the fire pit that had hosted so many nights of s'mores and funny stories...I even spotted Ernie, the dumb hose that I could never unravel as a little girl. I kneeled to smell the honeysuckle, taking another step towards my porch, and that's when it hit me. I couldn't go any further because my house was no longer mine. The shiny key that had unlocked the door for thirteen years before would stick, and I would likely be approached for trespassing. So I stood there. I planted my feet and felt the tears run down my face as the ten feet separating me from MY house felt like millions of miles. I stood there, and accepted that when I moved eight hours away to attend my dream school, my family, financially damaged from the recession, moved away too, and just ten days after high school graduation. The darling family that had purchased our home was away for a wedding, and for this I was incredibly grateful. Without this coincidence, this moment of nostalgia could not exist. I found myself saying: "Hi house", and it was then that I realized my childhood home looked as sad as I felt, missing the sound of my dad playing piano, with dead grass, weathered patio furniture and the lights turned off. Everything was the same, and yet so much had changed. By legal standards, I was a fully grown adult. But inside, I was that same little girl with blonde pigtails, dying to sit on that porch one last time, dying to host just one more fire pit. Inside, that little girl wanted nothing more than for that shiny key to unlock a lifetime of memories, an embrace from her own family, and the words "welcome home". Being the lucky girl I am, I was welcomed home by everyone else. But I was also welcomed to the emotional rollercoaster of a college career. Much like Riley Anderson herself, I was feeling pretty inside out. What I didn't know was that there were names for what I was feeling, and others were feeling the same. So, let me be the first to make the announcement...
BUCKLE UP PASSENGERS FOR "THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE", A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE MORE EMOTIONAL THAN YOU'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE. PLEASE ENJOY THE RIDE, AND KEEP IN MIND THAT WHEN THE BENDS AND TURNS OF "THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE" MAKE YOU FEEL AS THOUGH YOU MIGHT LOSE YOUR COOL, THE PASSENGERS ADJACENT TO YOU ARE ALSO FEELING THE EMOTIONS BELOW.
Recognized by Merriam Webster as "a place where vessels anchor", the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows brings far more poetry to this term, identifying it as "the desire to hold on to time as it passes". We've all been there before. You scrimp and save for a beach getaway, only to find yourself on the final night, breathing a little deeper, laughing a little louder, and hoping the sun never sets. The air begins to cool as fall approaches and you long to drink Arnold Palmer in your obnoxiously loud flip flops for just one more week. Its understandable. The thought of returning to work on Monday, the thought of incredibly cold weather...these are the thoughts we would avoid entirely if we could just stay on that beach or stay in that season forever. So how then, do we prepare to leave our childhood homes, our best friends, and eighteen years of memories just for college? Growing up, the little things that you treasure are practically guaranteed to return. Every day, you plan to partner with your best friend in biology lab, you anxiously await the daily cafeteria gossip and Friday nights are for football games. You know you're having fun, but you don't know that these are THE BEST times until graduation day, when you walk down the memory lane of your high school hallways one last time. Suddenly, 12 WEEKS is all you have to treasure what you've loved for EIGHTEEN YEARS. You like to hope that that time will pass as slowly as finals week, but unfortunately, in the blink of an eye, you're there. It's the night before you leave. You sit in your room, surrounded by boxes, feeling smaller than ever and taking in everything. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Now you've got 12 hours, and you're too heartbroken to read the pile of letters that sit on your carpet. This home is your harbor. Your heart is anchored here. If only you could stay for just one more week, one more day, one more second, than maybe you wouldn't feel so lost at sea.
Pronounced saw-'dah-djee, this Portuguese term is both beautiful and haunting, referring to a "deeply emotional state of nostalgia" or "profound melancholic longing for an absent something". To make a comparison to the word "bittersweet" is almost unjust, for the death of a given time is a flurry of emotion. On the one hand, the memory lifts your spirits and brings a smile to your face; you're grateful that such a wonderful time did exist. On the other, the pain you feel comes from the understanding that things may never be the same again. People travel, people change. When the chaos of college finally subsides and you return home, you'll find that you're the same you that you've always been. You'll wish that everything around you was the same again too. If this gif of Andy saying goodbye to his childhood best friends isn't visual representation enough, research saudade, and you'll find a beautiful portrait of a woman, blinded by tears as she reads a letter. To read this letter is to return to the time when the beloved sender was alive. Having nothing but the letter to hold on to is a reminder that the opposite is true.
Decidophobia: the fear of making decisions. It frequently presents in high school seniors debating which college to attend, and typically carries long into the post-secondary career. You've made one huge decision, and now you face countless others: which major to pursue, which classes to take...In the midst of these many other emotions, you may feel as though you're doing everything wrong. At the same time you're an adult capable of making your own decisions, you will require occasional help. At the same time you're off pursuing your dreams, you're homesick and missing the simplicity of childhood. Perhaps you'll feel as though your best decision lately was to pay your phone bill.
4. Heraclitus Change
"What I love most about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice. The water's always changing, always flowing. But people I guess can't live like that. We all must pay a price. To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing." Let's add this to the list of lessons taught by Walt Disney, for these words belong to none other than Pocahontas. Yet, unbeknownst to myself, these lyrics perfectly represent the philosophical notion of Heraclitus Change. Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Grecian philosopher long before Socrates' time. His utmost understanding was this: change is the natural order of the universe and therefore, "no man ever steps in the same river twice". Clearly Heraclitus and Pocahontas were on the same page, but when we put this notion into the context of college, we uproot far deeper emotions. At some point, you may find yourself sitting at your favorite spot by your favorite river, knowing that a long time has passed, but feeling as though you were there just yesterday. After all, the river is the same river and you are the same you. Nothing about your home has changed, and the child who grew up there is still very much within you. Unfortunately, every time you sit by your river, the water is different, and is flowing downstream to a larger destination. Therefore, you and the river share identical dilemmas, for each time you return, your life circumstance will have changed and the visit to your sanctuary cannot stop you from being propelled into the bigger picture. So guess what, Pocahontas? This is NOT what I love most about rivers.
Another term from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, "adronitis" brings only one thought to mind: inflammation and/or irritation. This presumption however, is greatly inaccurate, as adronitis refers to the frustration with how long it takes to truly know someone. It's not incredibly difficult to meet new people in college, but in the moments when you're feeling these things, the only person who really understands is your best friend. They know your deepest secrets, when you're holding something in, and how to comfort you without saying a single word. The only thing is, they could be any number of miles away, with hours between you. It's an awful feeling, and unfortunately, though you new people can become your best friends with time, you can't ever replace the ones who've been there from the start.
Introducing Zenosyne! The sister-brand of Sensodyne toothpaste! At least that's what I imagine when I hear this term, but zenosyne actually refers to "the sense that time keeps going faster". I'll bet you remember that first piggy bank, the scent of Sharpie ink as you scrawled the words "college fund". I'll bet that being much younger, college felt as though it was a world away and would never approach. You continued to save as eighth grade graduation passed, you counted the pennies through all those high school seminars. But why? It was still so far away. School grew harder, friendships grew deeper and you woke up one beautiful morning to find it was your graduation day. When you reflect upon the individual moments, the past eighteen years feel like more than a lifetime. But then you remember that little piggy bank, and the years feel so condensed that they might as well have been seconds. Suddenly, the piggy bank allocated towards college changes to save up for bills. Freshman year is carried away by chaos and the countdown beings. Three, two, one, you're done. With every year that you take to prepare for life, life itself seems to approach you even faster, and when it's full speed ahead, you might miss the days when the train was far from leaving the station.
Oh good, you're here. You've arrived at the end of my article :) Well, almost. Before I go, I have just one more thing to say. Please don't let this article upset you or frighten you in any way, that is not at all what it's meant for. It was actually my hope to achieve the opposite. You see, I myself have felt these many emotions, and was enthralled to discover that each of them hold a name. Something tells me that they inevitably required identities because so many of us have experienced them. Just look above. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has felt these obscure sorrows. Andy, Rachel, Forrest Gump, Pocahontas and Heraclitus have felt them too. To be in college is truly such an exhilarating time. You are an adult, and capable of so very much. But you are also human, and one who will get homesick. It's perfectly ok. Your home is your home for a reason, and it always will be. So get out there! Hug your best friends, make some more, fulfill your potential, have a blast, miss your home, come back, and revel in "The College Experience" :)