When I was a first-year, feeling alone and afraid, I read a very helpful article that made me feel like I could maybe do, even enjoy, college. As my last fall semester at Kenyon begins and others commence their very first one, I think it’s time we revisit this topic of self-assurance and reflection as a marker for beginnings and ends. Time is a flat circle and we are living the same meta-narrative over and over again.
I want to start out by saying, to every freshman; I do not envy you. This exact time of the year is always awkward, but the first year is especially strange. You’re coming from an environment (high school/home) that you know exceptionally well with best friends and family that are at this point distinct and unchangeable parts of your soul. You are dropped in this brand new space with brand new people— many of whom will take time to warm up to/feel comfortable around. You will put yourself out there over a thousand times— introducing yourself with the well-known schpiel of name, hometown, and dorm. You’ll desperately scrape for any semblance of common interest and talk for as long as humanly possible.
You will get inevitably exhausted from this practice, some faster than others. There were definitely people that you found interesting or fun through this interactions, but first semester freshman year is one long ice cream social that you can’t escape. It gets old and you get anxious for the party to end. I do not miss this, any of this. I do not miss sitting at an over-crowded Peirce table with people that you don’t really know or like, but agreed to sit with because you don’t know anyone else on New Side. I do not miss the quiet dread of the everyday, because the fear that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the place for you— creeps in to the back of your head.
But that won’t last— at all.
The best advice I ever got about freshman year was from a current senior at the time, one I had only known through mutual friends of mutual friends. She said, and I’m paraphrasing but that’s besides the point: “Keep track of people you find good, and let the rest happen.” It all works itself out, enjoy the ride that is Freshman year— it never happens again. You will come back, after every break (for a week or for three months)— knowing way more than you ever did in August. Meet people, as many as you can, and notice who you share common interests and values with. Do your own thing— join clubs, volunteer locally, and meet as many people through doing things as you can. Trust in the nature of The Thing that the powers of the bier will bring everything into cosmic homeostasis, eventually.
I know it’s lame to say—but I found my ~people~, and you will too. You will find friends that will hold your hair while you barf, only a few days after knowing you. They’ll sit with you at Peirce even if they’ve already eaten— just to talk for a few minutes. They will know when you’re feeling sad, just because of the way you’ve held your fork. It is so lame and dumb and cheesy— but they will become the reason you learn to love Kenyon. It takes time, trial and error, and a lot of watered down vodka to find them. You’ll still crawl through freshman year— like a blind baby, but you’ll find them. And when you find your people and place in this weird little Hill— it’s the best feeling in the world.
It’s okay. It’s okay to feel bored and restless and disappointed and unsure. You’ll find your way eventually— whether it’s in October or next Spring or Sophomore year. I promise, I promise, that you will find your “it.” I still have trouble describing “it”— that feeling I get during different milliseconds of Kenyon. They’re like snapshots. “It” is standing in the crowd of a Horn show, feeling cramped from the bodies standing too close to you but also feeling safe because you recognize everyone’s faces. “It” is walking into a party South, when you can hear the music from the first floor— and everything has a pink, warm glow to it. You will find your “it” in the library at 2 am. You will find it sitting on the floor of your first-year double eating a pizza you’ll come to regret in the morning. Everyone has their own version of “it”— that feeling that’s almost impossible to explain. And it— whatever “it” is— will be so happy to see you.