I’m going to be honest: my first semester at Kenyon sucked. The heightened academic rigor made me feel terrible at the things I was supposed to be good at, like I didn’t deserve to be here. People here talked about books I’d never read, bands I’d never heard of, and I was out of my depth.
My better self belonged at Kenyon (that was what I’d thought the year before, deciding to come here) but a month into my first year I felt anything but better. I was studying more, playing music more, to be sure, but I can count on one hand the days I didn’t feel lonely in my first semester. There was a practice room in Storer I’d designated to cry in a few times a week. I made a few friends, but nothing felt like enough (side note: it was enough. No matter how many group pics you see of classmates on Instagram, everyone is nervous and lonely at first and that manifests itself in weird different ways).
Someone told me recently that everyone who’s ever gone to college has thought of transferring. I’m not sure how true that is overall, but it was true for me. I knew that I loved Kenyon and that I had the capacity to be happy here, but for some reason things didn’t click into place for a very long time. It got better, slowly. There was no noticeable tipping point, but eventually I got busier. I met more people, I started writing for The Thrill. I carved out small places where I felt comfortable, and returned there when things got too overwhelming.
This is not a before/ after kind of post. I am not some shiny human who, once a sad first year caterpillar, erupted from a cocoon of apathy and self-consciousness into a glittery success moth. Sophomore slump is real (and junior slump, and senior slump) and everyone has bad days and good days, hell weeks and productive streaks. But being a first year is terrifying because you don’t have your own personal support system set up immediately. There are the PCs, the UCCs, the faculty advisors and the counseling center, but usually no one you know. It took a long time for me to establish meaningful relationships with people I trusted, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t worth it.
There will (probably) be nights when you can’t stop crying and mornings when you can’t get out of bed. Nights when you drink too much and kiss the wrong people and feel like everything is terrible and will never not be terrible. I had nights like that last year, and I’ve had nights like that this year. But now I have people I can reach out to, wonderful crazy smart people who talk about books I’ve never read and bands I’ve never heard of but who think I’m kind of cool anyway. It makes all the difference.
The truth is I’ve never talked to a person here who had a great first semester. I’m sure they exist, and bless them for being superbly well balanced, but for the most part we’re all just tall babies who don’t get enough sleep and read a lot of Nietzsche and sometimes cry in practice rooms. And that’s perfectly okay.