11/02/2011 09:25 am ET Updated Jan 02, 2012

Forgetting We Were Freshmen

Freshmen. They can be easily identified by their oversized backpacks, wide-eyed expressions, and a tendency to awkwardly pause in the hallway as they scan their frightened eyes over the little white schedule that is, at all times, within arm's reach of them. And as funny as it is to witness this phenomenon, we seem to forget that a mere one to three years ago, that was us.

How dare we become like those stuffy adults who have experienced some sort of amnesia that prevents them from remembering the complexity of youth? It was we who once wore those bewildered faces and were terrified by the immense campus. We each have a memory of freshman ineptness; even if it is buried down deep in a place we vow not to reach once the last day of freshman year rolls around.

I, myself, entered Santiago High School with the appropriate amount of social deprivation for someone who had spent the last two years in a home-school program, as I had. I was armed with both over-sized backpack and trusty white schedule, as I attempted to conquer what I had considered to be a complex system of buildings, classrooms, stairways, and students.

Lunch came, and I clung to the girl in my fourth period that I had known prior to freshman year, and she clung to me. Together, we tried not to look concerned as we eyed all the tables that seemed to be owned by the upperclassmen who sat upon them. Eventually, we found an empty spot on the planter by the F Building bathroom and unfolded our paper bag lunches, devouring our nerves in the form of peanut-butter sandwiches and Capri Suns. At some point in our munching, my friend got up to use the facilities. I sat, trying not to look as alone as I felt, when a pretty junior girl swept in and sat in the vacant spot my friend had left.

Despite all my shiny happy ideals I'd started school with, I knew that as a lowly freshman, I could never tell this upperclassmen that she had just sat in a reserved spot. And so I bit my tongue and hid my utter mortification at how easily I'd given up the seat of my only friend at the time. Luckily, the aforementioned friend emerged from the bathroom just as the bell rang, and I averted conflict.

That year, I went on to learn even more about how far down the food chain us freshmen really were. Santiago students may be sharks, but in our first year, we are nothing more than chewy, delicious bait; this I learned from the heart-breaking chants of "Freshmen suck" at my first pep-rally. Don't you remember these moments of vulnerability? We weren't always wise in the ways of our school.

Sure, chuckle at rookie mistakes and big-eyed wonder, but don't hesitate to show a freshie or two a little compassion. It wasn't so long ago that we were the little fish being thrown into the big tank; Just as we learned, so will they. And in the meantime, why not make the learning process a little less crippling to a young person's ego and self-esteem? Offer directions, a seat at lunch, or even just a smile. I promise, you'll feel a little warmness in your heart, knowing you gave someone the kindness that you were not fortunate enough to obtain while in their position.

And who knows, maybe if we break the cycle of cruelty towards freshmen, we will consequently break the cycle of cynical sophomores, making for an all-around happier campus.