Oberlin Blogs

Coming Home, or Somersaulting in the Passive Voice

September 6, 2012

Tess Yanisch ’13

This summer, my dad took me and my brother to an amusement park and I went on a ride called the Ring of Fire. It's basically the loop-the-loop part of a roller coaster removed from its natural habitat: a giant vertical hoop with a car at the bottom. You get into this car and start sliding back and forth, gradually climbing higher and higher up the sides of the hoop until you are going over the top and all the way around.

A video of the Ring of Fire, probably taken several years ago--it's not as shiny now.

I enjoy the feeling of falling forwards and backwards toward the ground, adrenaline mixed with a slight tinge of panic, but going around the top was just too disorienting. I discovered that I could get over the strangeness by looking down (or rather, up) at my feet at the very moment of transition. By the time I had tucked my head, we'd gone over, my feet actually were down, and I was left with the feeling of having just somersaulted without having actually been the one in charge of the somersault.

Going back to Oberlin was a little bit like that.

I have gotten used to feeling like I'm "going home" both when I'm en route to Washington and when I'm headed for Ohio. Usually, though, the transitions don't sneak up on me quite as much. This time, perhaps because I'd been in Oberlin so long on the one end and was only home for a month on the other, both departures seemed to happen suddenly. I was packing for several days at the end of July and getting my things into storage, but that was different from realizing that I'd actually be going home--the last morning in Oberlin I found myself wandering around, slightly befuddled. The same way, I didn't really feel like I'd be leaving my family again until the day before I went back to Oberlin (and even then I managed to lose the feeling again while playing games and watching The Dick Van Dyke Show with everyone).

In either case, a few hours of disorientation--largely pushed aside by the details of travel--soon gave way to a sense of happiness, being back in the swing of things, setting up shop again in whichever "home" I found myself.

Granted, there are changes whenever I come back, wherever I come back to: it had been more than half a year since I'd seen my little brother, for instance. He's going to be taller than me in a year or two--unfair! His little Christmas kitten is the size of a young panther and keeps trying to shred our toilet paper. Returning to Oberlin was also odd this year for a number of reasons. I'm a senior now, for one thing, with all the responsibilities and business and fun that that entails; last year's seniors are gone, for another, including many colorful Sci-Fi Hall personalities and three of my best friends. In exchange, there are new faces, including approximately three million freshmen on Sci-Fi Hall (and by "three million" I mean "eighteen," which is still pretty impressive considering that it's almost a third the population of the hall). Some of my underclassmen friends have transferred, so they're gone, too. I have a single this year; Emma, my roommate for the last few years, is living in village housing with another friend of hers--I intend to visit them often, however. I have three regular classes, but I'm also taking a course that's basically volunteer work paired with guided reading about social issues. DeCafe has an option to use a milkshake base for smoothies now. Major changes like that.

But some things stay the same. Sci-Fi Hall is celebrating its tenth birthday this year, making it the oldest continuously existing theme hall on campus (Classics Hall existed earlier, but then it stopped existing for many years and was only revived recently, in my sophomore year). Many of its denizens are still familiar, and I'm getting to know some of the 3,000,000-give-or-take-2,999,982 freshmen. Mudd library is full of womb chairs and studying students. The ExCo fair was packed to the gills last night and its offerings included social justice workshops, Chinese tea, contortionism, SexCo, social media, film noir movies, knitting, letterpress, Legos, Taiko, swing dance, Calvin & Hobbes, competitive computer programming, and grassroots organizing. Emma's still running the competitive computer programming ExCo. It's humid. People are already busy. I'm going to continue my research. DeCafe smoothies are tasty. Life moves fast.

You blink, and the hint of disorientation is gone. Senior year has begun, and I intend to make the most of it!

Can you hear the students sing,
Singing the song of moving in?
It is the music of a school year
That is ready to begin.
When your classes all work out
And you've add/dropped out or in,
You are ready for the new year to begin!

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