I’m nine days into my junior year of college and I’ve already had a significant existential crisis. Like an earth-shattering, life-altering set of panic attacks played out in the circular plot of grass outside my dorm that looks like my town’s new high school and in the dirty lilac sheets of my uncomfortable twin bed. Ironically, two years ago on September 5th, 2016 I had just returned from my significant existential crisis that manifested itself in a life-changing last minute solo trip to Washington, D.C. I wish I was still naive enough to spend all my money to go to a random city alone to meet random girls at a random college. It was kind of cute.
Freshman year one of my first ever classes was Spanish 002. It was in a beautiful old building at the edge of campus around eleven o’clock in the morning. Before I would walk up the winding staircase, past intricate stained glass windows and old carpets and peeling ceilings, I would eat a Sodexo grilled cheese while reading emails. My keyboard was always stained with grease and my face was coated in sweat from the naturally hot basement. I would take out my gigantic Lilly Pulitzer planner and do homework half-heartedly, alone, googling random things that came to mind and checking blogs. I would always sit somewhere where no one could see my computer screen; I was embarrassed to sit there for an hour, unfocused and scrambling to do an easy one-page worksheet, and have someone watch me and judge me for that.
It’s crazy to think that it was just two years ago. And that I could handle being four hours away from my home. I could handle running out of money, getting rejected by guys that thought I was clumsy and weird, wearing dressy clothing for no reason and making an ass out of myself, not doing my homework rarely ever, missing my 8:30 a.m. class at least twice a week, and walking everywhere in oppressive heat and not crying about it. I for sure cried about other things, but how am I a junior and crying about oppressive heat? To my mother? Who has had breast cancer and doesn’t give a fuck? Why am I suddenly so weak?
If I replaced my closet with dresses right now I would never go to class. If I drained my bank account I would drop out of school. If I got rejected by a guy I would go into a deep spiraling depression. When did this shift? Why was I doing so much better as a freshman than I could ever do as a junior?
I used to think it would get better for me. There was a senior girl in my Spanish 002 class that didn’t wear leggings and sweatshirts. She wore cool scarves, skinny jeans, motorcycle jackets, and ankle boots. She wore long t-shirts, ripped boyfriend jeans, Adidas sneakers, and dangly earrings. She traveled the world and was from New Jersey and transferred her sophomore year from the University of Maryland. And she talked to me.
Me. The girl wearing an orange dress and Jack Rogers. The one with a crush on a tall douchey guy in my class that went to the douchiest of prep schools in the DMV area. The one who forgot homework yet color coded her planner and folders, the one who missed her classes 24/7 but still put on a full face of makeup to go to ten minutes worth of a Chemistry lecture. Yes, me.
She asked me what “leer” meant. My first thought was, okay, this girl can’t be serious. But she was! She didn’t know. She hadn’t taken Spanish in five years, she said. She was a senior. Class of 2017. On her way out. Something I couldn’t even picture for myself.
Her name was Molly, and shortly after we paired up on a group project. She picked me up in her car (!) from outside my dorm where everyone saw us (!) to go to her APARTMENT (!) and I didn’t even ask! She let me into her HOUSE. She had steel cut oats in glass jars, beautiful art prints lining the walls, mismatched furniture and three extremely unique roommates with bikes and lives and great Spotify playlists and futures. After we did the project, I cried. I cried really hard in my room, and I didn’t know why. All I did was sit in the corner of her room in a really soft chair and conjugated verbs. But I cried. Going over Molly’s house showed me that maybe someday I could live in an apartment with white walls and mismatching kitchen appliances and steel oats in a glass jar with interesting people that were my friends. It showed me that it is not like this forever, whatever “it” is, and whatever “this” means. You have to move out, and you have to meet people, and you have to make oatmeal.
In Burlington I would walk down the street, the streets full of actual people with lives outside of universities, lives with children and taxes and family vacations and city recycling. I almost forgot that someday I would be one of those people, too. I have a lot of trouble remembering that now, and especially lately. I can’t imagine what life is like outside of college because it’s not staring me in the face. There is no residential house I can stare at within 45 minutes walking distance that does not have a student living in it. I can’t buy steel oats in bulk because making oatmeal in the microwave is really annoying. My plants are dying because I don’t have natural light for them to soak up. My soul is dying because I can’t drive anywhere right now and put on Dance For You by the Dirty Projectors and cry into the open air just because I can, and just because I feel like it, and just because I could get away.
Even though I felt like I had to get away from Vermont, I had the opportunity to get away in Vermont. I could pretend to be someone who just lives there. I didn’t have to have an identity. I could sit in front of Uncommon Grounds and people watch with the weird comfort of knowing that some of the people I saw I would never see again. But here, everyone is everyone I will see again, even if I don’t know it, and it’s terrifying.
Maybe I’m one of those people who will always think the grass is greener. Maybe I can’t ever make decisions for myself that will turn out right. But finally, when I talk about my freshman year I can say something positive. I have never felt more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I was making mistakes left and right but still listened to those songs that made street lights shine brighter and my life a whirlwind of a movie. Here I am afraid to make mistakes, terrified to the point of never wanting to try anything new again. I hope I can find that feeling somewhere in my life, someday: trusting, ignorant, blissful hope.