The Allure Of A New Beginning
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Student Life

The Allure Of A New Beginning

New school year, new university, new me ... or so I thought.

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Lighthouse at night

There is some unspoken magic, a strange hype, around the notion of starting freshman year. As a freshman, a new beginning lays at your feet: the parents send you off to live on your own, and suddenly everything from studying to laundry is inevitably your responsibility. You exist in that age too old to be considered a child, yet not developed enough to make it out there on your own in the world. There is the fear of being on your own, away from the nest, but there is also an intangible excitement within your soul. You start to imagine the countless friends you'll meet, how you'll run around campus with them, engaging in freshman-style shenanigans. How you'll toil with your classmates in the midnight hours trying to get that impossible assignment done before the next morning. How you'll introduce yourself at various RSOs, and see new, warm, smiling faces. How you'll be the stereotypical, successful college student. College is going to be the best four years of your life, they said.

The day after high school graduation, an invisible, imperceptible timer started to tick deep within me. It was like a time bomb, (counting down in that mysterious way the brain does without our notice) ticking towards the first day of college. The hazy days of summer flew past—I mostly forgot about high school, and I didn't want to think about college yet. I busied myself with summer courses and such, but mostly I was just enjoying the few weeks of freedom I had left. Soon, the first day of college rolled around and I braced myself for whatever awaited me.

In the wee hours of that first day of school, I was woken up by some slight sound in the middle of the night (as I often am). I was not able to fall back asleep. I tried breathing deeply, I tried sleeping without a pillow, I tried wearing earplugs. But it was not my sleeping position nor the cars whizzing down the highway in the twilight that prevented me from falling back asleep. It was the time bomb inside my head. Months had ticked down to weeks, weeks had ticked down to days, and now I was mere hours away from being a college student. My brain refused to turn off on its own accord, so I did calisthenics until I had exhausted myself back to sleep. I was excited (maybe a little too excited) for college to start.

I woke up and went to my classes. Professors explained their syllabi with calculated gracefulness, students asked questions as if their lives depended on it. Numerous due dates, Zoom links, and homework portals were alluded to. It was becoming too much, too fast. I lost track of what to do, where to go for class. I got myself into some class group chats. Most students were just as disoriented as I was and unsure of how the gears of college were meant to turn.

I sat down to do my first homework assignment, which was an introduction to computers. Easy enough, I thought, I know what those are. After two hours of the assigned reading, I decided that I didn't know much about computers after all. The exhaustion from my lack of sleep started to kick in. It wasn't even 2 p.m. yet, and I was spent physically and overwhelmed mentally. I headed up to my room and drifted off into the limbo of sleep. As I nodded off, I was disappointed. Where was that unspoken magic, that hype of starting college? Is this really what college is like? What had I gotten myself into?

As I write this article, I realize the grave error I had made going into that first day of class. It was the error of muddling expectations and reality. In the movies, college always seemed to be a haven for developing independence, making friends, and just having fun. But this year, given the extreme circumstances, it will be so much harder to achieve that goal. Reality, the unpredictable beast that it is, just sucker-punched me in the face. I have no doubt that many other students have been, and will be crushed by this nasty blow as they start this peculiar school year. Step one: ride the punch. Step two: pick yourself up off the ground and keep going.

My mother instilled this quote in me: "if you can't change your circumstances, change your attitude." The circumstances of today cannot be changed. Since we cannot will this pandemic to vanish from our lives, it is up to each one of us to change our mentality, to adapt to the unfolding events of today. We cannot live in the land of dreams and expectations, because that is not a real place. We operate in reality, a world where dreams and expectations do not rear their pretty faces as often as we would wish. That doesn't mean dreams are useless and meaningless. They serve as a guide, a beacon of light amidst the map of reality. To reach our final destination, to get to that bright beacon that represents our hopes and dreams, we must traverse the uneven, ugly ground of reality. If you were rushing to get to class, would you stop and give up because it suddenly started to rain? Would you turn around because you tripped and fell? No, because you don't let trifling obstacles stop you from reaching your destination. It is much of the same with the situation we face right now. Our goals are always there to guide us, and they don't deserve to be neglected because of a temporary, traversable obstacle.

Maybe that is why there is so much pent-up excitement about starting the freshman year of college. We see the idealistic image of college life, and expect to experience it right away. We expect to be teleported from here to there without ever traversing the numerous obstacles that lie in between. Perhaps we think that just by finally being a college student, we expect to be granted access to all of these good memories and moments. That by simply existing as a college student, we become a transformed person. But as I write this article, I am the same person I was one week ago, before I entered college. When I look at myself I don't see the almighty college student that my false expectations had fooled me with. At least not for now.

And I'm okay with this. Because all good things take time. Rome wasn't built in a day, the saying goes. And it wouldn't be much fun if it were. The reward of undertaking a challenge doesn't lie in the relief afterward, but in the feeling of accomplishment as you struggle and fight your way through those obstacles. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Yes, we are attending college during a pandemic, and yes, we happen to live in a truly remarkable time. This period of our lives will be remarkable because of the circumstances, not in spite of them. No matter what year of college you are in, I have faith that we will one day be able to live out those lofty dreams of college again.

Every tunnel has its light, and every storm has its end. We'll get through this. The sun will shine again. While we wait for it to end, let us dance in the rain.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Chris Barbalis

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