The deadline to commit to a college is right around the corner, which, if you're a high school senior, you've probably heard more times than you ever wanted to but now it actually is right around the corner. Finally choosing a school can be utterly terrifying, a huge relief, exhilarating, or likely all three mixed. Indecisiveness is a natural part of the process of committing - I personally visited Oberlin three times before deciding I wanted to come here - but there was one moment I remember when all the doubt melted away and I knew with full confidence I had picked the right place.
It was during my third visit to Oberlin, during All Roads, after a completely perfect day. Earlier, I had eaten lunch in a co-op and got to tour the kitchen, where I was greeted by blasting 80s pop music and someone handing me a freshly-picked apple to eat. I got to meet some of my new teammates and commit officially to my new swim coach, then went to the bookstore to deck myself out in Oberlin gear. The weather was beautiful, all the trees were in full bloom, and I was completely filled with joy. Well, joy plus a little apprehension about the finality of my decision.
That night, I did an overnight and my host took some other prospies and me to a student dance showcase. I remember sitting in the packed studio space, looking around at all the chatting groups of friends and wondering what my own life at Oberlin would look like in a year. The sense of anticipation that filled me when the lights dimmed for the performance wasn't just for the acts that would follow, but also for the new life I would start here. The spotlights came up and the first group started dancing. They were the beginning tap ExCo. Their dance wasn't perfect; there were a few missed steps here and there, some confusion of choreography, everyone was a little out of sync. But the dancers on stage looked like they were genuinely having fun. They were proud of all the progress they'd made and the audience was too. When the group finished their performance, their bow was met by wild applause and cheers that matched the ones given to the expert tap group and all the other various dances that followed.
That was the moment I knew with full clarity that I had picked the right school. I felt this sense of relief and amazement at having found a place where people were willing to try a completely new activity and not only test it out, but give a performance of their new skills in front of a huge crowd, who then encouraged, supported, and commended the dancers for stepping out of their comfort zone, even if those steps were a little out of time. To be in a place where imperfections were not only allowed but embraced in the pursuit of new experiences and creative endeavors overwhelmed me; I felt safe in a way that I think is completely unique to Oberlin. I knew that whatever I decided to pursue in my time here, I wouldn't get the strange looks and half-interested responses I was used to, but authentic, full support. So far, that has been absolutely true.
At the beginning of last week, I started to see posters around campus for the dance showcase this spring, taking place exactly a year after I committed to Oberlin. I knew I had to go. As it so happened, I got a prospie the weekend of the dance showcase and found myself again sitting in the audience of the studio in a mixed group of Oberlin students and prospective students, this time as the very person I wondered about being when I was at All Roads. The sense of coming full circle was so strong and I started getting emotional looking around at the life I have here, all the people I love who surrounded me. The lights dimmed for the performance. When they came on to reveal the beginning tap ExCo poised for their dance, I felt tears well up in my eyes. At the end of the dance, I wanted to turn to my prospie and explain how much the performance meant to me, how lucky I feel to be a part of Oberlin. But at that moment, I couldn't. I was too busy cheering for the dancers with the rest of the crowd.