Campus Confidential: My Freshman Year, I Vow To Major In “Unafraid”
I wouldn’t say that I was a nerd in high school. Although I have adopted the art of procrastination as ardently and with as much love as if it were a tiny puppy alone on the side of the road in a rainstorm, I did in fact manage to get some studying in. But despite grades and test scores that were high enough to award me admittance to one of the best schools in the country, I’d never call myself geeky. “Loner” probably isn’t the right word, either. I wasn’t exactly in the running for prom queen (real talk: I didn’t even go to prom my junior year, gasp) but I had a particularly close group of best friends who were like my sisters. I never felt alone, but rather constantly surrounded by people who loved me. No, the only thing I can definitively say to describe who I was in high school is that I was there.
I felt it on the first day of my freshman year: I didn’t belong there. I know, it’s the oldest story in the privileged white girl’s book. Nobody understands me! I wish I went to an alternative school that exchanged P.E. for reiki treatments and preferred Woolf and Plath to Dickens and Thoreau! Whinewhinewhine! Okay, maybe that’s not what every privileged white girl wants (Uggs paired with skirts in summer and Natty Light come to mind as viable alternatives for many a P.W.G) but it’s certainly what I wanted. Or at least it’s a hyperbolic version of what I wanted. I remember, as I took my first steps into high school thinking, Julie, if you make it through today, I will reward you with a cookie and a ‘My So Called Life’ marathon. Get your head in the game. Ward off everything that makes you uncomfortable with sarcasm and cynicism that your classmates don’t yet and may never understand or appreciate. Only four more years!
And now, here I am, four years later. I graduated high school. I am headed off to Barnard College of Columbia University. When people here at home in ol’ northeastern Ohio ask where I’m going and I answer a little too quickly, they tilt their heads skeptically and ask, “You’re going to a farm in South America?” thinking I’ve said, “A barnyard in Colombia.” I internally roll my eyes, but at least I know the truth: I was simultaneously accepted to the number one women’s college in the country and an Ivy League school, and I’m going to New York City to do some fancy learning.
The truth is, I’m absolutely terrified. I have older friends already in and out of college who tell me that being afraid is perfectly normal, but that doesn’t keep me from waking up in the middle of the night from stress dreams of a bleak future. In one dream, I’m alone in my dorm room on a Saturday night wrapped in my Snuggie with a hand shoved into a box of Munchkins, so far past the freshman 15 that the ability to fit into my jeans is but a distant memory, sobbing, “Forever alone. Why am I forever alone?”
If it’s not a dream, then it’ll be a gripping panic interjected into the most mundane of daily tasks. The other day, I was loading dishes in the dishwasher when it hit me: What if I have to eat alone? People can’t possibly go to the cafeteria in groups at all times in college like they do in high school, can they? While I’ve eaten alone, I’ve only ever eaten really alone, like alone in my own house. I’ve never eaten alone while surrounded by other people who are not eating alone. What the hell do I do then? Am I crazy for worrying about this? Probably. I’m probably insane and nobody will like me. Cue me crying in the corner in the fetal position.
But despite the panic and fear and just plain sadness that has been pretty consistent throughout this whole leaving-everything-I know-behind-forever thing, I’m also pretty damn excited (bet you didn’t see that coming). I’m scared about being alone … but I’m also really happy to finally be independent. I’m excited to possibly meet people with whom I have more things in common than being born in the same location. I want to learn, I want to meet my soulmate (of every variety), I want to have a lot of fun and I want to experience as many things for the first time as I possibly can.
One interesting thing (amongst many!) about Barnard is that they’re extraordinarily (and rightfully) proud of their alumna, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Anna Quindlen. The school constantly quotes her as saying that at Barnard she “majored in unafraid.” Well, I think I’ll follow in Ms. Quindlen’s footsteps and add “unafraid” to my academic and personal agenda. I don’t want to repeat my experience in high school – of showing up, doing what’s required and dying for it to be over. I want to make the absolute most of college. I want to really be there.
And I want you to come with me. For the next year here on The Frisky I’m going to write a tell-all account of my freshman year (well, at Barnard I am technically known as a “First Year” because we’re not into that patriarchal “-man” suffix s**t, but you know what I mean). And, like I said, I’m officially fearless. Or at least I’m going to try very hard to be.
So, I think the only area of doubt that remains, the final question that begs to be asked is: are you ready to vicariously relive your freshman year?