Sometimes you have to completely throw yourself into something and not look up until all you see is clear sky. I think expectations, snap judgments, and insecurities cloud the conscience; they keep us from living and investing in the present. Having just returned as a sophomore to Tufts University, I had high standards for this year, especially since I had already established strong friendships and joined stimulating clubs on campus. I thought I would return to campus and pick up freshman year right where I left off.
I was so wrong. Since coming back to campus, I have spoken with a number of friends about the unanticipated anxiety and concerns about this year feeling somehow different. It is not common to find oneself feeling lost in a familiar place, so why were we? Had Tufts lost its charm? It's frightening to suddenly doubt something you had so much faith in, something that was just recently a constant positive in your life. We are all living in new dorms, which have completely reshuffled the dynamics of our relationships -- not necessarily in a negative way, and I am now also playing hostess to the batch of new freshmen with whom I attended High School. I am trying to balance schoolwork with seeing friends for the first time in months, and in between it all, I'm trying to remember how to do laundry and make a bed. It is surprisingly staggering, and I'm not even a freshman.
But then, just a few nights ago, I watched a freshman boy rudely reply to one of my best friends --to whom I introduced him earlier that week -- when she generously tried to warn him of a busted party down the street. His obnoxious attitude immediately brought me back to high school, where bitchy was the new black and being cool meant being exclusive. In that moment, I realized that things were different this year. My friends and I are so far removed from our high school selves, from the needy, insecure, social climbers that we all once were, and the scandalizing astonishment that we felt upon hearing that freshman spit words of subordination at people who had been so welcoming to him confirmed that.
My expectation for this year was that it would be an amplification of freshman year. Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the personal growth and maturation that I would undergo this summer. And I completely overlooked the possibility that freshman and sophomore year could be as distinctly different as senior year of High School and freshman year of college. It seems that my anxiety and confusion about this semester stem from my inability to see this as a new year, one that is completely independent and unrelated to freshman year. I have grown since last year, more than I realize, and so have the people around me. Yet we are clinging to freshman year because it's all we know of this life at Tufts. We are choking on self-induced cynicism, doomed for disillusionment by a present that we have yet given a chance.
We tend to cripple ourselves with expectations and assumptions because we are afraid of new experiences, we are afraid of being ill equipped, ostracized, or worse, disappointed. Our only hope for salvation is to cut loose from the shackles of our pasts, to accept the change and newness in our lives, and to cherish every moment of our extraordinary, ever-evolving existence. Otherwise, we will waste away pushing the boulders of our future up the unscalable mountain of our past, only to watch them roll back down in Sisyphean despair.