My College Experience As .gif

I love first-years. (I think freshmen is not the, uh, preferred nomenclature.) I say this for two
reasons. First, they’re so bubbly and enthusiastic about every institutional
quirk. And second, I secretly hate
first-years, mostly because of that first reason.

If you, like me, spend a lot of your time occupying various administration buildings,
you’ll eventually be forced to eavesdrop on an extended conversation between
two first-years. Any extended first-year conversation (FYC) will almost
certainly address the following topics, in this order: their sponsor groups,
their OA, their south campus dorm(s), Wig, Frank, becoming a sponsor, living in
Oldenborg, going abroad, their anticipated double majors with accompanying
Psych/Spanish minors. An FYC never exhausts itself internally, so these topics
will likely resurface ad infinitum
until the students are called to their respective appointments.

I don’t
mean to be glib. Say what you will about the first-year mentality, at least
it’s an ethos. And, if the internet is any indication, some first-years are actually self-aware, snarky little devils. I’m not
ashamed to admit that “S**t Pomona Freshmen Say” and #whatshouldwecall5c have
provided me a lot of procrastination fodder this semester.

Though I find this stuff hilarious, I feel oddly removed from it all. I’m out of my
element, and it’s not because all seniors are nihilists, or at least not only because of that. Yeah, I hate when
it rains here, I mean-mug people who cut in the expo line, and God knows I’ve
taken some glorious naps in the fireside lounge. But I would hardly call these
defining experiences, these Pomona-isms that are general enough to be legibly
rendered into the shorthand of a .gif.

That’s
the thing about #whatshouldwecall5C. Each post is only a flashy signifier for
the everyday emotional stimuli of Claremont, the phenomena of lived experience
made bite-size and coated in confectionary. It’s pleasant enough to pop a few whenever you’re feeling down. Like Whoppers or Milk Duds, they
make me think of the movies more than real life.

Besides,
none of that stuff is actually what I’ll remember about this place. No, it will
be the strange and unlikely places, things, and routines that have wormed their way into my psyche by way
of habit, serendipity, or random neurological misfire—the things too
particular, banal or complicated to be rendered as a .gif: the mind-numbing
yet comforting sterility of Mudd study rooms, the oddly satisfying
consistency of Frary’s spicy black bean burgers, the cigarette smoke that often sails off the steps of Pearsons, TUB, and the IKEA rug that made my Harwood room feel like
home. That rug really tied the room together.

What
I’ll really miss about Pomona, believe it or not, is Rains Center. Yes, it’s
ugly, dysfunctional and generally unpleasant. No, I’m not an athlete with a
legitimate social reason for my attachment. Maybe it’s just the endorphins, but
all the best and most satisfying random conversations I’ve had have been at Rains.

The
residential liberal arts college utopia that they use to sell this school is a
myth. We don’t always or even usually take our conversations outside of the
classroom, sitting on Marston Quad debating Heidegger deep into the night. (Excuse the use of the royal “we” here). Maybe we do that once a semester, but
usually we go from class to scheduled activity to studying to dinner to work to hanging
out with the group of friends we’ve had for four years.

The
beauty of a place like Pomona is in the times when these essentially clustered
or isolated lives intersect in a place like Rains and something gets shared.
What you get out of that is too fleeting to become a meme, but one day
you’ll actually, physically remember it and maybe even feel something. At least that’s what I’d like
to think. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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