I had a wonderful experience last Sunday. I was walking across the quad contemplating my enormous pile of homework that had been building up all weekend and considering whether the “my dog ate my homework” excuse still worked when you no longer had a dog, when suddenly I looked around and realized … I was at college. Now, I know some of you are applauding me for this deep discovery coming only four weeks into the semester, but it has taken a while for the feeling of being a college student to sink in.
The past few weeks, college still felt like camp to me. There were spontaneous games of Ninja on the way back from dinner, whispered conversations with the roommate late into the night and oh-so-many names to memorize, making one wonder in desperation why our parents couldn’t have just named us all Jane and Bobby. I dabbled in homework, minored in cannonballs into Pendleton Pool and majored in joining as many activities as possible. There was at least one week where I took five gym classes, was a member of 11 clubs and split my weekend between the pool and parties.
But no more, my friends, no more. Slowly, that little, evil pile of reality known as homework began to insist on my attention and all that lovely free time disappeared. I have given up pursuing a degree in trying-to-splash-as-many-people-as-you-can-while-jumping-off-the-diving-board in order to pursue one in writing-polite-emails-informing-people-that-you-are-dropping-their-gym-class-and-sorry-for-splashing-your-kid-that-one-time-sincerely-Morgan.
College suddenly underwent a big change for me, going from all play to all work. I was not spending my late nights playing Cards Against Humanity, but desperately trying to finish one last essay so I could get a maximum of four hours of sleep—which is why walking across the quad last Sunday was such a quiet victory for me. I had played around at college, I had worked my butt off in college, but it wasn’t until I crossed the quad that Sunday that I felt like I had arrived at college.
For the first time, I had that moment when you feel like some place has become your place and you belong to it just as much as it belongs to you. Suddenly, I became a college student. All around me, I saw people taking advantage of our California climate: two youngsters were connecting in an impressive manner with their tongues down each others’ throats, an impassioned lawyer was making his witness sob at a Mock Trial practice, a couple of kids were attempting to climb a tree by hugging it under their mother’s watchful eye, a photographer was taking a picture of a middle-aged couple that never stopped holding hands and I ran into a random, friendly acquaintance of mine with whom I stopped to chat for a few minutes before continuing on my way.
Upperclassmen may laugh at my wonder at crossing the lawn because for them, this green area has become an ordinary background. But for me, fresh from the halls of high school, there is and remains something magical about a college quad. It is there, after all, that I became a college student. And it is there I shall return if ever I decide I would like to be a grad school student, college professor or master (mistress?) of the universe. But until then, there’s a good chance I’ll avoid the area completely—so as not to undergo any undue character development.