As my first year of college came to a close, I mused over a lot. Here’s my attempt at condensing my endless reflections into a few takeaways:
1. Starting with a cliche: time really does pass way too quickly. I come from a small town in the suburbs of New Jersey. I’ve been home for a few days now, and seeing how my parents exist in the classic dichotomous “go to work/go home” routine that I’ve always known, I seemed to have forgotten how slowly life moves for some people. For me, high school simulated this exact monotonous dichotomy - I’d commute to school, and come directly home. After falling into the “go to school/go home” cycle for four years, my first year in college was a complete culture shock.
College thrusted me into an ever-changing series of academic messes, social events, plans with friends - you name it. I was so thoroughly occupied with activities and assignments that when one was over, I’d move onto the next. There wasn't ample time to stop and process the little things, like, what I wanted to eat that day, what the weather was like, what day of the week it was. College is truly the ideal mix of spontaneity and scheduling, a fair balance of lazy days and livelihood. It’s been the busiest year of my life thus far.
2. What’s up with this immense desire to travel? In college, especially at an institution like Penn, everyone just balls out. It’s almost a sin if I venture somewhere for spring break and then don’t add to the Instagram flood of bikinis in tropical oases. And God forbid that I go home for break when everyone else is having the time of their lives! Although I like it, I have to admit that this immense pressure to “see the world” is intimidating - especially when I’m so young, and I feel like I have a lot of maturing to do before I go insert myself in someone else’s territorial highground. Travel is a luxury, and college students, of all people, seem to be taking it for granted - accentuating their social media accounts rather than soaking in the cultural moments and trying to understand the place from a scholarly, aesthetic standpoint. If you’re fortunate enough to go to places like Bangkok… The Bahamas… Peru… Paris... (@friends who manage to make it all around the world in a time period as short as a single summer), then take that Ivy League brain of yours and share your learnings (not just a snap of your ass in a bikini) with others.
3. Kids are losing their passions. Penn has a huge “work hard, play hard” attitude that is difficult to overlook and evade. People get their homework done with the intent of “going out” at the end of the week with their friends, to relieve stress and to forget. It seems as if the only thing driving their ambitions is their ultimate desire to forget it all, to fuck what they learn and just go crazy.
It was always hard for me to see how the glamour in “work hard, play hard” outshone its cyclical complications. Oftentimes, people who live this "work hard, play hard" way in college will carry the same mindset to the workforce - they’ll get a job that makes a ton, and blow through their career the same way they blow through their homework nowadays, just so they can “play hard” when the weekend rolls around. Doing the same sort of drinking and partying. Revolving one’s entireties around the idea of “weekend fun” leads to redundancy and mindlessness, and I think I realized this before it truly started to become a part of my core. Innovating and growing creatively should be intrinsic. And I don’t think I’d ever sacrifice a job that I love for one that makes more money, so I could “play harder” with my earnings. Life’s all about finding a true passion and devoting myself to it; about exploring the limitless soul over exploring the limitations that substances have to offer.
4. The artsy/sceney complex is a personality at Penn that has me shoooook. Here, so many people go to art museums on the regular, have art-related discussions, and simply appreciate art more. In high school, I always felt like the weird kid who sat around and painted all day - now, a lot more people seem to look at me and think, “Hey, that’s cool.” At Penn, I’ve been able to maximize my artistic side, by creating short films with Premiere/Final Cut for the first time and learning how to use Processing as my coding sketchbook.
On the other hand, I’m also experiencing sceney-ness to its fullest. The capitalization of prestige and status is something so prominent at Penn, in the fact that there always seems to be hyper-social gatherings or pre-professional networking events going on.
The whole juxtaposition thing really has me intrigued. People balance their Center City brunches and soirees, with nature hikes and trips to see graffiti art. Additionally, this school genuinely revitalizes my fashion-loving soul, with students embodying both the edgy street and high couture styles - pairing vintage denim jeans with fur coats, dirty Stan Smiths with designer tops. This “I’m classy and elegant, but also dope and woke” persona is what drives the cool factor at this school. It’s an interesting contrariety that people are constantly trying to portray themselves as.
5. Don’t try to “get out" of college, but don’t get stuck in it either, because it’s not your whole life. It’s so crazy to me that a lot of things might seem like they mean the world now, but won’t really matter in the future. For example:
1. GPA, because C’s still get degrees. Penn Professor Joe Biden was a D student!
2. Popularity, because let’s face it, how many people do you really keep in touch with after graduation anyways?
3. What you look like to other people. Because if you love yourself, who cares what that semi-acquaintance in your Calc I class judges you for?
4. Social media pressures. Like, the fact that you accidentally put the “wrong” filter over your Instagram picture before you posted it.
The list goes on. But at the same time, college is a time of self-growth, realistic goal-setting and dreaming as big as you can. You’re not yet burdened with pressures and liabilities of the career world, so don’t think too far ahead or try to leap there before you’re ready. On the other hand, you can’t be on this juvenile thread of oblivion forever, and you’re slowly amassing skills that scream, “time to grow up!” It’s a scary, transitional period, and often, it seems like we’re all just floating with the passage of time. Take college on a day-by-day, experience-by-experience basis. By using one small moment to enhance another, you’ll be on a continuous upward trend towards positive conclusions (with minimal setbacks!).
So, RIP freshman year. It’s been fun, and I’m excited to do this again in a few months, when hopefully, I feel less like a fish out of water than I did this time around.
Here’s to the summer of 2017 and the end of an era!