This goes out to all you first years in the audience.
I’ve been there. Really. This time last year I was packed and sitting on the curb by the post office, dreaming of the warm bed and home-cooked dinner that awaited me. My sister and I would embrace, tossing our hair and laughing about the larks we got into while apart. My mom would be carrying a giant roast turkey on a platter, spinning and twirling her way over to me so I could feast. My dad would be holding a set of flashy new car keys. He would look down upon me, beaming with pride, and hand them over, saying “Here, kid. You deserve this.”
But I’m going to give it to you straight.
A lot has probably changed in these first few months of college. You’ve read a few books, flip-flopped around your prospective major, developed a new outlook on life and, possibly (probably), a new sexuality. You’re ready to burst through those air-tight airplane doors and break into song as you walk out into the terminal. With a flourish you cock your hip to one side, lift up your arms and say “[Hometown], this is the new me!”
But within the first five minutes your enthusiasm fades. Your sister is entirely indifferent to this whole new persona you’ve developed, your mom has already found three stains on your shirt, your brother’s voice has dropped but that just means he can say his sexist/racist/snide/high comments with enforced masculinity, and, as we speak, your dad is getting into an argument with a stranger in the parking lot.*
On the ride home, you notice that, rolling around on the floor of the car, is a thermos of iced coffee you drank half of in July.
When you get back to your house, your dogs greet you with so much excitement that the two-hour car ride in traffic becomes worth it. But then your dad realizes he forgot something in the car, goes out to get it, and when he comes back in, elicits the exact same response from them.
After striding through the house, trying to see if anything has changed, you make your way up to your room. You see that your calendar is still on “August,” on which you marked the day you had to say goodbye to a boy or girl you haven’t spoken to in weeks.
You think that, surely, everything will feel better when you meet up with your friends. Surely they’ll want to hear about that really great point you made in your Social Dreamers class. You’ll walk into the basement where you used to all congregate and sneak sips of Mike’s Hard and get **~~so0o0 w@st3d omg I was so0o0o0o bl@ck 0ut~~** and they’ll say “Wow. You look great. I love your new haircut. You’re so much more intellectual than when we last spoke. Written any good papers recently? We want to hear all about it! Do you have a new favorite author? Have you gotten taller?”
But in reality it’s a giant awkward silence, because everyone’s waiting for you to ask about their new lives, when all you want to do is talk about yours. You dig up an inside joke from sophomore year, just to say something, and everyone laughs. You all start using the word “legit” and saying that yeah, some Mike’s Hard would be really chill right now. All the novels you were ready to cite and the philosophers you were ready to name-drop have disappeared behind a slew of Ke$ha lyrics and SNL quotes.
I guess what I’m saying is that
everything sucks it’s okay to go back to your old life for a week. There’s nothing wrong with reading Sartre one day, and the dirty story from this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan in a nasally, stupid voice with your high school friends in your high school bedroom the next. You’ve forgotten the simple pleasure that comes from eating cereal on your couch watching Comcast OnDemand in your pajamas at 1PM, or laying in bed every morning listening to your mom unload the dishwasher while your dad plays guitar in the living room and your sister sings opera or some shit in the shower. For one week, just enjoy going out to dinner and the fights your siblings get in and the sound of the vacuum and a fridge full of milk that isn’t expired and the experience of showering without someone flushing a toilet and sending scalding water down onto your scalp. Don’t spend it all wishing you could go back to your Kenyon life.
Because, fuck, you have a paper due Monday and you didn’t even open a Word Document.
*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to my own family is purely coincidental. Love you miss you, Mom and Dad, can’t wait to see you tonight hahahahahha isn’t it great how we can all laugh together?