The View from South Campus: Becoming a Freshman

Even now that I’m in college and getting my mind blown on the daily, inside the classroom and out, it’s the simple passage of time that really gets me. The Spanish Inquisition is one thing, but you really never expect the midterm mark to come so soon, especially not when you’re a freshman and it feels in a lot of ways like you’ve just set foot on campus. But time hurries on, and the leaves that are green turn to brown, or the dead palm fronds start to slough off, or whatever it is that happens in Southern California to let us know that the time of the season is a-changing, and we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly, in October. Which, in Lexie’s world, means that it’s time to sit back, put on some Bon Iver, and get into the contemplative swing of things.

It’s funny, when you think about it, how many different existences can fit into one lifetime. In one sense, you can look back and trace the common thread that runs throughout, tying years to decades, isolated incidents to larger themes, causes to effects. But at the same time, within that overarching narrative scheme, in some ways it’s easy—natural even—to pick out discrete chunks, each separable enough from what comes before on the timeline and what follows to constitute a mini-narrative, a quasi-life in its own right. Anyone who’s changed as the years have passed—and I’m hoping that’s all of us—can probably testify to the strange, dual nature of this kind of self-reflection, the way in which we feel that we’ve maintained a pretty constant identity throughout our life but at the same time can hardly believe that it’s the same person who’s been to all these places and had all these experiences, this person who we are.

So it’s very weird, once we’ve located this fundamental disparity in our sense-making processes, to think about it now, so soon after crossing such an obvious threshold. Six weeks ago, we freshmen were sloshing aimlessly through post-graduatory limbo; now we’re in college. We’ve all done a tremendous amount of stuff in the weeks since we arrived on campus; similarly, a tremendous amount of stuff has happened to us. Collectively, all of this college stuff has impelled us to update our Facebook networks, to buy our swag at the bookstore, to introduce ourselves nominally as students of XYZ College. But a couple of weeks ago I was video chatting with a high school friend of mine, and she said it best: “It’s nice and all, but I keep thinking it’s going to end, and that everything is going to go back to normal.”

I know exactly what she’s saying. It’s uncomfortable and confusing to think of these big bifurcate moments as such when they come, because when we’re immersed in a given lifestyle at a given time in our lives, we don’t want to have to give it up. And, no, I’m not saying that we give up our old selves when we enter college, but our circumstances change, and we do, too. We don’t necessarily lose our old friends, but our relationships change because, eventually, our primary friend groups get replaced. It’s hard to believe because it is so subtle. Those first few weeks at college feel sort of like a vacation from reality, and I’m getting the impression that there’s not really any one moment when it happens, but it does. Sometimes I’ll turn a corner and flash back to April, when I first toured Pomona, and I’ll think about the little things, like how different my sense of orientation is now that I’m coming from South Campus everyday instead of admissions. I’ll catch myself referring to a kid from my English class as a “friend” for the first time, or I’ll realize in the middle of writing an article that I’ve just designated someone I used to see every day as a “friend from high school,” and then I’ll feel all weird because that kind of label is “sooo college,” and part of me still feels like I’m faking it because I can’t possibly belong here.

But then, it’s a process. The leaves don’t change overnight. We can look ahead and plan out our lives and nominally divvy it up—anticipating these next four years as one unit, etc.—but only in hindsight can we see where the organic breaks occurred.

And, of course, the coolest thing about being a college student in the 21st century is the Internet, because it’s changing that even now. Were it not for Facebook (heavenly, heavenly Facebook, the double-edged sword of progress and procrastination), I would never have realized that two of my good friends—hailing from two different high schools at opposite ends of the country (both of which I attended [my status as a flaming bicoastal may or may not be why I’ve given this whole multiple-existences phenomenon a lot of thought])—go to school together now, and chances are they might never have met had I not informed them via the Interwebs that they were perfect prospective bromance partners. I video chatted with both of them the other day, and it was surreal in the best possible way. Talk about worlds colliding—here were walking, talking, tangible representations of two entirely separate units of my life just chillin’ in the same room, effectively serving to remind me of the continuity that is characteristic of everybody’s life, even disparate-seeming ones like mine. Maybe there’s something to this whole wave-particle duality thing after all.

Which reminds me—the midterm mark has indeed arrived. Exams are fast approaching, and I’ve listened to For Emma, Forever Ago on loop four times in a row, not studying. I’ve reached the awkward hour at which no one from any of my past lives on either coast is online, and this means that it’s bedtime. Goodnight, October. We’ll see what changes you bring in the morning.

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