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Meghan McCullough Headshot

College: A Life of In-Betweens

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Freshman year hit me like a freight truck. It was the hardest, scariest, best thing that has ever happened to me, and I wouldn't change one part of it. The time between leaving home at the end of last summer and coming back at the beginning of this one has irrevocably changed me. But by the time I did return home to New York, it felt like I was leaving home just as much as I was coming back to it.

Looking at my freshman dorm for the very last time before finally leaving, the walls white and bare, the closets and drawers empty, the mattress on that rickety college dorm bed devoid of all bed covers, everything felt wrong -- as if I had somehow grown a new part of myself in that room and then packed it away into suitcases and cardboard boxes. What would become of that new part of myself? Where would it live?

Walking down the hallways of my freshman dorm those last few days was even more disheartening, as I saw doors propped open with sweating parents walking in and out of all the rooms, lugging TVs and printers down to their cars, the floors littered with boxes and packaging. Everyone was leaving, and they would be scattered all over the country this summer, from Connecticut to California. And a four-month summer vacation feels longer than it sounds.
The only comforting thought I was able to console myself with was the fact that I would finally be back home, given a much-needed break from the stress and havoc of college life. I would have a chance to reconnect with my family and high school friends, who I had missed terribly.

Little did I know, "home" wouldn't fully feel like home anymore. Seeing my high school friends again was fantastic, and I felt myself slipping back into the old dynamics I used to have with them immediately. On the surface, it was as if we were still in high school together. But although we were all technically at the same points in our lives, I couldn't help feeling like we were somewhat scattered. Just as my college friends had gone home to different states all over the country, so too had my high school friends spent the past year away at different colleges all over the country. And that changes things.

Confused by my new role at home in New York and still wondering about where exactly my college self fit in to all of this, I had to come to terms with the fact that, for better or worse, my life was different now. I wasn't in high school anymore, and I wasn't (for the present moment, at least) in college, either. Using being at home as a method of coping with missing my college life was not the way to go, because the familiarity of being at home would just as soon be taken from me.

Always saying goodbyes, always saying hellos, and always missing people. It was then that I realized that comfort could no longer be found in the familiarity of being in one place, but rather in the familiarity of leaving places and coming back to them. The inconstancy of my life had to become my new constant. It was a difficult idea to wrap my mind around, and I'm still working on it. But that's what college really does to you -- beyond all of the classes, essays, and finals, it makes you think and forces you to grow up.